ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Politics of Detentions in Jammu and Kashmir

Continued detention of democratic leaders further squeezes the space for engagement and reconciliation.

 

The invocation of the Public Safety Act (PSA) against senior political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir has, once again, underscored the aversion on the part of the union government to adopt a democratic–conciliatory approach towards Kashmir. It should be noted that many political leaders, particularly Omar Abdullah of the National Conference(NC) and Mehbooba Mufti of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), have been under detention/house arrest since the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019. Such detention under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) would not have been tenable after six months, as it requires producing the detained persons in court. Thus, the government seems to have invoked the PSA to continue their detention without following the regular course warranted by the criminal justice system. The NC leader and member of Parliament (MP) Farooq Abdullah has also been under arrest under the PSA since September 2019. What explains such heavy-handedness against the mainstream democratic leaders who have continuously participated in electoral processes and abided by the rule of law as given in the Constitution? The dossiers prepared by the Jammu and Kashmir police against these leaders are abysmally inadequate to establish any case against them by way of presenting conclusive proof of the threat they pose to public security and maintenance of order. In fact, some charges against the leaders of the NC and PDP are evidently ludicrous, and some also reek of convenient and selective targeting.

Going by the dossiers, if these leaders pose such a grave threat to security and order, why were they not booked under the PSA in the first place? Since their previous actions have been cited as evidence, why was the ruling party at the centre having discussions with or working together in the government with these very forces despite the knowledge of the same? No plausible explanation to these logical questions is forthcoming from the government, and thus, it appears that the action against these leaders is not based on any serious investigation. Instead, this is a manifestation of the executive intent that seeks to stifle the mainstream democratic voices in Kashmir as their unhindered expression is deemed inconvenient. In fact, the Prime Minister himself justified the detention of the leaders by arguing that some of their statements were unacceptable. While the factual basis of this argument itself appears to be on shaky grounds, a deeper problem with this line is the arbitrary and subjective definition of acceptability. If acceptability for the continuance of the government-sponsored narrative is the yardstick, then the existence of political opposition itself would be superfluous.

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Updated On : 24th Feb, 2020

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