A J&K dossier on invoking the stringent Public Safety Act against National Conference leader and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah runs into 21 pages and lists 27 charges, 16 police reports, three FIRs and 13 statements in favour of the abrogated Article 35A.
Abdullah, also a three-term Chief Minister of J&K, was already under detention at his Gupkar Road residence when the PSA order was issued against him by the Srinagar District Magistrate on September 14. His home was declared a subsidiary jail given his “standing” and “keeping in consideration his advanced age” — he will turn 82 next month.
The dossier notes that “the subject” has tremendous potential for creating an environment of public disorder within Srinagar district and other parts of the Valley. The conduct of the subject, it states, is seen as fanning the emotions of general masses against the Union of India, and instigating the public with statements against the unity and integrity of India.
His statements from 2016 are part of the state’s dossier: “On the 11th birth anniversary of his father at Naseembagh Hazratbal, in December 2016… triggered controversy by making explicit overtures towards separatist conglomerate namely Hurriyat Conference by stating that they should unite with his party for the cause of Kashmir.”
One of the charges against Abdullah is that he “justified acts of terror undertaken by anti-national elements by glorifying terrorists”. It notes his July 2019 statement wherein he is quoted as having said, “If Article 370 is temporary, then Jammu and Kashmir’s ties with India are also temporary.”
His statements to the press have also been included to exhibit incitement to offence. “Public statements made by Dr Abdullah e.g. asking separatist organisation Hurriyat conference to join hands for so called freedom struggle, thereby launching a movement for secession, threatening about the hoisting of national flag in an integral part of the country… clearly makes out a strong case… has wilfully and deliberately misled the freedom of speech and expression so brazenly to incite offences aimed at disturbing public order in the state.”
The state has also noted his reference to Kashmir as “this nation” and recorded his statement “showing support for militants” as “posing threat to life and liberty of people”.
Post the February 14 Pulwama attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel, Abdullah’s statement “reflecting his sacrilegious agenda by insulting valour of brave forces” has also been included in the dossier. It records a March 2019 statement where he said, “I doubt 40 CRPF soldiers were killed in the Pulwama attack.”
In the run-up to changes in the constitutional provisions made on August 5, it notes that he “crossed the limits of guaranteed freedom of speech and expression” by calling for “an uprising” in the state.
On the issue of Article 370 and Article 35A, the dossier states that “instead of debating the legal provisions”, Abdullah “chose to incite public by making charged statements like ‘severing ties with India’.” Additionally, his statement asking people to “prepare for rebellion against India” and talk of “not allowing hoisting of national flag” have been used to build the case for PSA against him.
Of the three FIRs recorded in the dossier, two have been filed in J&K while one was filed in Delhi. Sources said a senior police officer had suggested that Abdullah be kept in preventive custody without invoking the PSA.
But the government, sources said, insisted on the PSA. “It was to send a message to other mainstream leaders and workers that the State will not desist from using harsh measures against them if they don’t agree to the new reality. After two MPs from National Conference were allowed to meet Abdullah, the feeling in the government was that he was not in a mood to dilute his stance and was insisting on fighting the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A,’’ sources said.
A note prepared by J&K authorities to provide a context to the PSA order states that invoking the law against the Subject (Abdullah) is necessitated by compelling circumstances… Though, it is not something which is desirable, however, this step in view of the current circumstances became absolutely unavoidable. The activities attributed to the Subject just prior to dilution of Article 370 of the Constitution of India left no option open to the authorities but to resort to preventive detention law”.
“The credible apprehensions which came to be entertained in view of the clear cut intention demonstrated by him can be described anything except peaceful… The Subject has indulged in such protestation which unequivocally bordered on posing the imminent threat to the public order. The supporting material which corroborates and confirmed the apprehension of the authorities is consisting of 34 media reports/ documents,” it states.