October 14, 2020: Mehbooba Mufti, President of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was released yesterday, more than 14 months after being arrested, along with many other top state leaders, hours ahead of the Centre’s attempt to scrap Jammu and the special status of Kashmir in 2019.
As the Centre moved to bifurcate the state into two Union territories and effectively abolish Article 370 on August 5, Mufti, who became the first woman chief minister of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2016, was arrested along with other former CMs Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and other regional leaders.
“After more than a year of detention, our party president Mehbooba Mufti is released today,” said Najmu Saqib, PDP spokesperson.
J&K government spokesperson Rohit Kansal earlier announced the decision about the release on Twitter.
Mufti’s party said that she was likely to address a press conference on Friday. The deputy commissioner ordered that Public Safety Act charges against her be revoked with immediate effect.
Her detention period was extended for a period of three months on July 31 this year.
The former Chief Minister was first detained and lodged in the Cheshmashahi huts at her official residence.
In November, she was moved to a government building near the MLA hostel where other detainees were being held. She was moved to her official residence at Fairview on Gupkar Road in April this year.
The release of Mufti came two weeks after the Supreme Court asked the administration of Jammu and Kashmir if the detention of the former chief minister under PSA could be extended beyond a year and, if so, how long are they proposing to prolong it. The next hearing date was set by the bench on Thursday.
Iltija Mufti, daughter of Mehbooba Mufti expressed her gratitude
Iltija Mufti, daughter of Mehbooba Mufti, who has been managing the Twitter handle of her mother since her arrest, expressed her gratitude to those who helped her.
“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 wrote.
In September, Iltija Mufti moved the Supreme Court to amend her petition challenging the continuing detention of her mother under the Public Safety Act (PSA of February 5 and two subsequent extensions).
Initially, under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, Mufti was placed under preventive detention and then, just before her detention was set to expire in February 2020, on February 5, the government invoked the Public Safety Act.
This law allows authorities to hold any person without trial for three months to two years. On July 31, 2020, the administration extended her detention by three months, even as Sajjad Gani Lone, chief of the People ‘s Conference, was released.
Almost all of the mainstream political leaders of Kashmir were detained hours before Article 370 of the Constitution, which granted the region special status, was annulled by the central government and bifurcated the state into two Union territories, Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature and Ladakh without one.
Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, two other former chief ministers, were released after their detentions on 13 March and 24 March 2020, respectively.
On Tuesday, Mufti ‘s release was widely accepted.
“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,” JKNC vice-president Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter.
Peoples’ Conference chairman Sajad Lone said: “Mehbooba Mufti has apparently been released. Great news. She has been through a very tough time. Wishing her all the best.”
Post the release:
A day after she was released, Mufti met former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah at her residence in Srinagar today.
Later Omar Abdullah tweeted that she had accepted a request by Farooq Abdullah for a meeting on Thursday by the Gupkar declaration signatories.
“My father and I called on Mehbooba Mufti Sahiba this afternoon to enquire about her well-being after her release from detention. She has kindly accepted Farooq Sb’s invitation to join a meeting of the Gupkar Declaration signatories tomorrow afternoon,” Omar tweeted.
Earlier Mehbooba Mufti held a meeting with the PDP leadership.
She said in an audio message, “The black decision on that black day was impinging on my heart and soul during detention. Most people in J&K will be having the same feelings, nobody will forget the dacoity and humiliation of that day.”
She said people of J&K have to work unanimously for resolution of the Kashmir Issue.
She said the revocation of Article 370 in August last year was an illegal and undemocratic decision.
“The people of J&K will have to fight unanimously for the reversal of this decision and for the resolution of the Kashmir issue which has taken thousands of lives. It is not going to be an easy task, but our steadfastness will guide us,” she said.
The former chief minister also said that all those who have been put under detention in different jails across the country must be released.