Srinagar: The authorities in Jammu & Kashmir on Tuesday shifted incarcerated former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti to her residence in Srinagar’s Gupkar area.
However, she will continue to remain in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Only her place of lodgement has been changed through a fresh order issued by Shaleen Kabra, principal secretary (home) to the J&K government.
For this purpose, ‘Fairview’, her official residence on the foothills of the Zabarwan here, has been declared a ‘subsidiary jail’.
Mehbooba Mufti is among several hundred politicians of J&K who were taken into preventive custody before or immediately after the Centre stripped the state of its special status and split it up into two union territories on August 5, 2019. Many of them including Mufti and two other former chief ministers, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, were subsequently formally detained under the PSA.
Under the PSA, introduced in J&K in 1978 initially to deal with timber smuggling but later used by successive governments against their political opponents, a person can be detained for a period of six months to two years without the authorities seeking a formal trial.
Though many of the detainees including the Abdullahs were released recently, others including half a dozen leaders of the PDP and National Conference and former IAS topper Shah Faesal continue to be incarcerated.
The authorities have over the past couple of weeks also released nearly a 100 detainees -- about twenty of them on Monday -- to decongest the jails across the union territory and some more lodged in outside prisons in view of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 threat.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres had on Monday called for a “very close look” at the continued incarceration of Kashmiri prisoners amid the growing threat of COVID-19. Also, six leading international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Forum-Asia, International Commission of Jurists, CIVICUS, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and International Federation for Human Rights (fidh) jointly demanded their immediate release.
These organizations said that while recent steps taken by the Indian authorities to decongest prisons in an effort to control the COVID-19 outbreak are welcome, the government should release all “unjustly” detained prisoners as a matter or priority. They said, “The fate of hundreds of arbitrarily detained Kashmiri prisoners hangs in the balance as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in India passes the 4,000 mark and many more are likely to remain undetected or unreported.”