Mehbooba Mufti released after 14 months in detention
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti was released on Tuesday, more than 14 months after being detained along with several other top leaders of the state hours ahead of the Centre’s move to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019.
Mufti, who became the first woman chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2016, was detained along with other former CMs Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah and other regional leaders as the Centre moved to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories and effectively scrap Article 370 on August 5.
“After more than a year of detention, our party president Mehbooba Mufti 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 CM was first detained from her official residence and lodged at Cheshmashahi huts. She was moved to a government building close to the MLA hostel, where other detainees were held, in November. In April this year, she was shifted to her official residence at Fairview on Gupkar Road.
Mufti’s release came two weeks after the Supreme Court asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration if the former chief minister’s detention under PSA can be extended beyond a year and, if so, “how long do you propose to extend it?” The bench fixed the next date of hearing on Thursday. Iltija Mufti, Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter who has been handling her mother’s Twitter handle since the detention, expressed her gratitude to those who supported her. “As Ms Mufti’s illegal detention finally comes to an end, Id 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.
Iltija Mufti moved the Supreme Court in September, seeking to modify her petition challenging her mother’s continued detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA from February 5 and two subsequent extensions).
Mufti was initially put under preventive detention under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and then just before her detention was to expire in February 2020, the government invoked the Public Safety Act on February 5. This law empowers authorities to hold any person from three months to two years without any trial.The administration extended her detention by three months on July 31, 2020, even as it released People’s Conference chief Sajjad Gani Lone.
Nearly all of Kashmir’s mainstream political leaders were detained hours before the central government nullified Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded special status to the region, 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 on March 13 and March 24, 2020 respectively after their detentions. Mufti’s released on Tuesday was widely welcomed.
“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,” NC vice-president Omar Abdullah said on Twitter.
Peoples’ Conference chairman Sajad Lone said: “MehboobaMufti has apparently been released. Great news. She has been through a very tough time. Wishing her all the best.”