The arrest of the three time J&K Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah under Public Safety Act marks the latest move in a series of government measures to curb the potential popular resistance to the revocation of Article 370 on August 5. The move unexpectedly followed the filing of a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court by MDMK leader Vaiko for Abdullah’s production. Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to Centre and the state administration on the petition. The 83-year-old leader is the first high-profile pro-India politician to be arrested under the PSA which has been described by the Amnesty International as the “lawless law”. The Amnesty has said the PSA is an attempt by the authorities to circumvent the legal system and undermine human rights in the state. But the authorities have defended the imposition of the PSA on Abdullah law as necessary to maintain peace in Kashmir.
Abdullah has already been under house arrest since August 5, when the union government withdrew Kashmir’s partial autonomous status, which had been in place since 1947. The government has also reportedly arrested an estimated 4,000 people over the past 43 days, although many have since been released. The number includes more than 200 politicians, among them Abdullah’s son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who have also served as Chief Ministers of the state.
According to reports, the government has listed 27 charges against Abdullah. The charges include three First Information Reports (FIR) – two in Srinagar and one in New Delhi – and 16 diary entries made in different police stations in the Kashmir Valley. One of the main charges is instigating rebellion against the country.
The move has been severely criticized by the opposition leaders in the country. Top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has warned that by arresting leaders like Abdullah, government was making way for “terrorists” to fill in the vacuum. Similarly, Congress leader and the former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has termed Abdullah’s arrest under the PSA as “atrocious and unbelievable”. Former home minister P Chidamabaram who is himself in jail got his family to tweet his criticism of Abdullah’s arrest.
Abdullah has been a key Kashmiri leader who has dominated the state’s political landscape for the past four decades. J&K needs his leadership to steer it out of the current turmoil. In the absence of the leadership, the ongoing trouble in the Valley is likely to go on. J&K has already witnessed lockdown for 43 days and unless local leadership is roped in to find a way out, there is little hope that the situation will return to normalcy anytime soon.