As they completed six months in detention on Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir’s top mainstream leaders such as Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are unlikely to be released anytime soon by the administration. The day, however, saw the release of two known persons as part of a phased-manner release policy.
Top government sources said the administration was not immediately reviewing the cases of NC president and Srinagar MP Dr. Abdullah, whose detention was extended for three months in December under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for the second time. Detained on August 5, the five-time ex-Chief Minister is detained in his house, which has been turned into a sub-jail. The PSA dossier was based on his numerous public speeches made in the past few years.
The sources said the Home Department and the magistrates have not started any process to review the cases of NC vice-president Omar Abdullah and PDP chief Ms. Mufti. Both the former Chief Ministers were being held in separate sub-jails under Section 107 and 151, which allows detention of people in the cases of apprehensions of breaching peace.
A top official said the combined Sections of 151 and 107 allowed preventive detentions up to one year without any review and release in such cases remained the prime prerogative of the local magistrate, who judges the feasibility of their release on the basis of reports of the Home department and other security wings.
Iltija Mufti’s reaction
Reacting to the prolonged detention of her mother, Ms. Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti, said, “Ideally putting former elected representatives behind the bar indefinitely shouldn’t happen in a democratic set-up. But when you see sedition cases slapped against nine-year-old kids, its not a surprise”.
On the family decision not to approach the court for relief to her mother, Ms. Iltija said: “Which court are you referring to? The same court that has adopted a tone deaf attitude when it comes to Kashmir? They have turned their backs to Kashmir and its people. A court that couldn't muster the courage to order the Government of India to restore Internet despite a six-month ban”.
Valley businessman released
Meanwhile, the Valley's known businessman, Shakeel Qalander, who was also a member of the economist C. Rangarajan committee to formulate an employment policy for J&K in 2010-11, was released after six months from the Srinagar Central Jail.
“It has been an agonising period for the whole family. We were waiting to see him released every week since August 5”, Qalander's son Ahtisham Qalander, an IIT graduate, said.
PDP former legislator Aijaz Mir was also released from the MLA Hostel, also a sub-jail. From over 40, only 15 mainstream leaders, including Ali Muhammad Sagar, Naeem Akhtar, Sajad Lone, Waheed Para and Shah Faesal remain detained in the MLA Hostel now.