Farooq Abdullah arrested under draconian act
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has been formally arrested under the Public Safety Act following instructions from the Union home ministry, the hurried Sunday-night move apparently aimed at pre-empting uncomfortable questions in the Supreme Court, sources said.
Farooq, 81, had been under unofficial house arrest in Srinagar since the lockdown in the Valley began on August 5.
The Code of Criminal Procedure has no provision for house arrest and the unofficial detention could have led to questions in the court on Monday, when it heard a habeas corpus plea to produce the National Conference leader, the sources said.
Following Sunday’s decision, Farooq’s house has been designated as a sub-jail.
It also means the three-time former chief minister and Srinagar MP becomes the first top pro-India politician in the state to be booked under the draconian act (PSA) — ironically the casualty of the law his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had introduced four decades ago.
The act allows for detention without trial for up to two years if a person is deemed to have been acting “in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state”.
Official sources said Farooq, while under house arrest, had turned down secret offers from the Centre and the state administration to negotiate a deal in the aftermath of the move to scrap Kashmir’s special status and refused to meet some senior government functionaries.
A Union home ministry official said the home department of Jammu and Kashmir was sent a missive to detain the Srinagar MP under the act.
“The hurried decision to invoke the PSA was to pre-empt the Supreme Court from hearing the issue (of Farooq’s unofficial house arrest). The Centre had earlier not cited any reason for keeping Abdullah under house arrest since August 5,” the ministry official told The Telegraph.
Rajya Sabha MP Vaiko had last week filed the habeas corpus plea seeking a directive from the court to produce Farooq before it. Asked how long Farooq would be detained under the PSA, the ministry official said: “Initially it is for three months and will be reviewed and will continue to be extended considering the situation in the Valley. The ministry is yet to get a formal copy of the order from the Jammu and Kashmir home department.”
An official said the detention order would be placed before a committee, which has to confirm the action. Farooq can represent his case in the high court for quashing the order.
Three former chief ministers of the state — Farooq, his son Omar Abdullah, and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti — have been detained along with hundreds of politicians, political workers and lawyers since August 5, when the Centre moved to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and split the state into two Union Territories.
Asked how Farooq could suddenly become a threat under the PSA when he had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi days before August 5, the official refused comment.
“The government should explain this,” he said.
In Kashmir, the state administration was silent about the PSA order that was passed by Srinagar deputy commissioner Shahid Choudhary. The officer’s mobile was switched off.
The PSA had been introduced by the Sheikh Abdullah government in 1978 to deal with timber smugglers before it came to be gradually used to deal with all kinds of dissent.
In June this year Amnesty International had released a report where it called the PSA a “lawless law” and a “breach of international human rights laws”.
The invoking of the PSA on Farooq has come as a surprise for Valley residents, as most people are unlikely to fathom such a fate for a man who stood on the side of India through the greater part of his life and even went to Geneva in 1994 to defend the human rights record of the country.
There was no one from the family available to comment on the decision. But daughter Safiya, a neighbour, had hoisted a black flag atop the gate of her house.
Concertina wires had been erected on two sides of Srinagar’s Gupkar road, where the families live, to prevent civilian movement. The barricades were removed in the evening.
Baramulla MP and colleague Akbar Lone regretted such treatment for someone who has been abused all his life in the Valley for his Indian credentials.
Lone and fellow MP from Anantnag Hasnain Masoodi later issued a joint statement to condemn the decision and said the state was under “martial law” where “democratic and constitutional principles have been forsaken”.
Shah on Monday reviewed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Sources said the home minister was given a PowerPoint presentation at the two-hour meeting, also attended by national security adviser Ajit Doval and cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba.
Governor Satya Pal Malik met Prime Minister Modi and briefed him about the security situation in the Valley.