Eye on polls, Omar promises to repeal PSA in J&K

Former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah on Thursday promised to repeal the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows the detention of a person without a trial for six months, in J&K.

Speaking at a party convention in volatile Pulwama in south Kashmir, Mr. Abdullah said, “My government in 2011 mellowed down the PSA by bringing some amendments. I assure that if the NC comes to power on its own with a strong mandate, we will take no time to revoke the Act completely. I cannot see parents suffering due to the Act.”

On the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), Mr. Abdullah said he would continue to pursue its revocation. “Throughout my stint as J&K’s chief minister, I pursued the AFSPA’s revocation. I have not given up and will revive the effort with the forthcoming Central government,” he said.

The PSA, which has undergone a number of amendments in the past three decades, is widely used by the J&K Police to round up separatists and their supporters, and street protesters, for long periods of detentions.

Rights bodies, Amnesty International, and the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, have described it as “lawless” and “illegal detention.” According to figures estimated by civil society groups, up to 20,000 persons have been detained under the PSA since 1990. In 2016, an estimated 8,587 persons were arrested.

In a significant amendment, Governor Satya Pal Malik recently approved a provision to move detainees to jails outside J&K under the PSA.

PDP, PC demur

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and People’s Conference (PC), assailed Mr. Abdullah for his soft-separatist card ahead of the Assembly polls.

“NC president Dr. Farooq Abdullah was not able to bring mobile telephony to Kashmir with you [Mr. Omar Abdullah] in the Central government. Even the Gupkar road could not be reopened between 1996 and 2002. We have all the reason not to believe you,” said PDP leader Naeem Akhtar.

PC chief Sajad Lone said it was Mr. Abdullah’s grandfather Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah who introduced the PSA in J&K in 1975. “The NC introduced it, misused it and now wants votes to repeal it,” said Mr. Lone.

Reacting to the criticism, Mr. Abdullah said, “To those of you Kashmiri leaders who are questioning the NC’s PSA related commitment, I have simply this to say: you should have used your friendly ties with the BJP ( Bharatiya Janata Party) to do it earlier. Now people have a choice — vote for you to keep PSA or vote NC to remove it.”

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 12:28:41 PM |

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