Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Indian authorities have carried out a major crackdown against political leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir and arrested high-profile figures that include three former chief ministers of the Muslim-majority state.
The arrests coincided with the abrogation of decades-old Article 370 of the Indian constitution that protected the demographic makeup of Jammu and Kashmir state and provided it with limited autonomy.
It is not clear how many politicians or activists have been arrested since August 5 – the day Article 370 was abrogated – since the administration has not come out with any figures.
The decision to scrap Kashmir’s special status and divide it into two “union territories” to be controlled by New Delhi stoked unprecedented tensions in the disputed region and heightened hostilities with Pakistan, which also claims the disputed Himalayan territory in its entirety.
Here is a roundup of prominent Kashmiri politicians and leaders currently under arrest:
Farooq Abdullah, patriarch of Kashmir’s powerful Abdullah family which governed Jammu and Kashmir state for several decades and produced three chief ministers, is detained in his home on the heavily-guarded Gupkar Road neighbourhood in the main city of Srinagar.
The 83-year-old leader is the president of the National Conference, Kashmir’s oldest political party, and is currently a member of India’s parliament in the prestigious Srinagar seat.
The pro-India leader had also been chief minister of the Muslim-majority state three times.
Over his long political career, Farooq often invoked Article 370, calling it a “matter of honour” for the Kashmiris.
Farooq is the son of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who led a political movement for two decades for a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir which would allow its residents to decide whether they want a merger with India or Pakistan, or become an independent state.
Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was arrested by India in 1953. He later settled for a deal with the Indian government in 1975 that saw him becoming chief minister of the state.
#WATCH: National Conference leader & J&K Former CM Farooq Abdullah: Home Ministry is lying in the Parliament that I'm not house-arrested, that I am staying inside my house at my own will. #Article370 pic.twitter.com/OXzHjEmTnx
— ANI (@ANI) August 6, 2019
Another former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar is the third-generation leader of the National Conference, the party founded by his grandfather Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and currently headed by his father Farooq.
Omar was arrested on August 5, the day Kashmir’s special status was scrapped, and lodged at Hari Niwas, a state guest house close to the banks of Srinagar’s iconic Dal Lake.
His arrest caught many by surprise since he was seen as being close to the Indian government. He was a junior minister for external affairs in a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government two decades ago.
Between 2009 and 2015, Omar was chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state in alliance with the Indian National Congress party. He reportedly shares a close rapport with top Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi.
One of the most articulate politicians in the region, Omar has more than 3 million followers on Twitter.
Mehbooba Mufti will go down in history as the last chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, since the region has now been brought under central control.
Her political career has seen her go from one extreme to another. In her initial years as a politician, she adopted what was called a “soft-separatist agenda” due to her support to the families of Kashmiri rebels tortured and killed by the Indian forces.
Mufti was arrested on August 5, moments after Article 370 was abrogated. She has been lodged at Chashm-e-Shahi, the official guesthouse of the state government.
Her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was India’s home minister and twice the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Sayeed died in 2016; at the time he was heading a government in alliance with the BJP.
Sayeed was succeeded by Mehbooba as chief minister and president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which enjoys considerable support in southern Kashmir.
Mehbooba had likened the abrogation of Article 370 to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Shah Faesal has been described as a “role model” for Kashmiri youth when he topped the prestigious Indian Administrative Service (IAS) exam in 2010.
He quit the bureaucracy earlier this year citing “unabated killings in Kashmir” and floated his own Jammu Kashmir Political Movement (JKPM) party.
Faesal called his resignation from the IAS an “act of defiance to remind the Indian government of its responsibilities” towards Jammu and Kashmir.
The young leader emulated Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s signature “shalwar-kameez”, which he wore to his political rallies.
On August 14, Faesal was stopped at New Delhi airport, he was reportedly flying to Istanbul, and taken to Srinagar, where he is under detention. His current location is not known.
A former legislator of Jamaat-e-Islami party, Syed Ali Geelani is a veteran Kashmiri separatist and is known for advocating the merger of the region with Pakistan.
He is a member of separatist front Hurriyat – or Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) – which last year called for a shutdown in the Kashmir Valley every time India’s Supreme Court heard petitions seeking the revocation of Article 35A. Article 35A is a special law under Article 370 that prevented non-Kashmiris from buying land in the region.
Geelani and his family have been investigated by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged funding of “terrorist activities,” allegations the veteran leader denies, calling it a witch-hunt.
Geelani has been detained at his home on the outskirts of Srinagar, where he has remained under detention for the most part of the last nine years because of his sizeable sway in the region.
He is reported to be unwell and has not commented on the recent developments.
A separatist and a religious scholar, Umar Farooq belongs to the Mirwaiz family, the custodians of Srinagar’s largest Jamia Mosque, the nerve centre of clashes between protesters and security forces.
Known more commonly as “Mirwaiz”, Farooq was also questioned by the NIA earlier this year over “terror funding” allegations.
A member of the JRL, like Geelani, Umar had often described Article 370 as an “article of faith”.
It is not clear whether Farooq has been detained at his Srinagar residence or is lodged at a police station.
Lawyer Mian Abdul Qayoom is president of the Kashmir Bar Association. He was also interrogated by the NIA over alleged “terror funding”.
Qayoom was arrested and reportedly moved outside Kashmir to a jail in the north Indian city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh state. It is also not clear on what grounds has he been arrested.
An official in Indian-administered Kashmir told Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity that “over 1000 people have been detained, including politicians, separatists and activists”.
Indian authorities on Saturday said they have begun relaxing restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
In a news conference this week, the region’s Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam said: “Preventive detentions are being reviewed and appropriate decisions will be taken based on law and order assessments”.