Mehbooba freed, finally
Mehbooba Mufti, one of the three former chief ministers jailed last year ahead of the scrapping of Article 370, was freed on Tuesday night after 14 months in captivity.
The 61-year-old mother of two daughters was the last of the three chief ministers to be released.
Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were released months earlier, in March.
All the three were booked under the draconian Public Safety Act. They were among thousands detained to prevent unrest over the scrapping of Article 370.
Government spokesman Rohit Kansal announced late on Tuesday evening that Mehbooba was being released.
Minutes later, Mehbooba’s daughter Iltija Mufti, who has been handling her mother’s Twitter account all these months, announced her release. “As Ms Mufti’s illegal detention finally comes to an end, I’d like to thank everybody who supported me in these tough times. I owe a debt of gratitude to you all. This is Iltija signing off. May Allah protect you,” she tweeted.
Mehbooba’s release comes just as the deadline set by the Supreme Court to the government to explain her detention was set to expire.
Last month, the apex court had asked whether her detention under the PSA can be extended beyond a year. The bench had fixed the next date of hearing on Thursday.
Mehbooba was detained for months at a government facility but was later shifted to her Gupkar home some months back after it was converted into a subordinate jail.
People’s Democratic Party sources said she was informed about her release in the evening. Earlier, her detention under the PSA was quashed.
“She continues to be at her home. The only difference is that she is free now,” a source said.
Politicians of all hues have hailed her release.
“I’m pleased to hear that @MehboobaMufti Sahiba has been released after more than a year in detention. Her continued detention was a travesty & was against the basic tenets of democracy. Welcome out Mehbooba,” Omar tweeted.
A PDP spokesman announced she will address a news conference on October 16.
The PDP was facing a credibility crisis and its popularity had touched an all-time low for its alliance with the BJP. The alliance broke down in 2018 after the BJP withdrew its support.
Before her arrest, Mehbooba was accused of resorting to anti-national activities by the BJP for statements like “no Kashmiri will hold the Tricolour in hand if the special status was scrapped”. The prolonged detention and hardline rhetoric is likely to restore her credibility.
Late in the night, Mehbooba released an audio message, urging Kashmiris to fight for the resolution of the Kashmir issue and restoration of state’s special status.