Former Kashmir chief minister released after 14-month detention

Mehbooba Mufti, 61, was detained following the government’s revocation of the region’s autonomy in August 2019.

Critics accuse the government of using a law that allows detention without trial for up to two years to crack down on dissidents [File: Yawar Nazir Kabli/Reuters]

A prominent Kashmiri politician detained by Indian authorities for nearly 14 months following the revocation of the region’s autonomy last year has been released, her daughter said.

Mehbooba Mufti, 61, a former chief minister in Jammu and Kashmir, was among several leaders arrested under the country’s Public Safety Act (PSA) after the federal government in August 2019 abrogated Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

“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,” her daughter wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Mufti’s release comes after her daughter Iltija Mufti filed a habeas corpus petition at the Supreme Court challenging her mother’s detention under the PSA.

The case is scheduled to come up for a hearing on Thursday.

“There is a sense of huge relief,” Iltija Mufti told NDTV when asked about relinquishing control of her mother’s social media account, “Twitter is a toxic place. Glad I will not be on it any more. My mother will finally use her own Twitter handle. It felt abnormal to use hers.”

“But a lot of young people are still languishing in jail. [The detention was a] complete travesty of justice [and] other families are still suffering,” she added.

Critics accuse the government of using the PSA – a law that allows detention without trial for up to two years – to crack down on dissidents, including activists who rallied against the stripping of the Muslim-majority region of its autonomy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said at the time that ending Kashmir’s special status was necessary for closer integration of the Muslim majority territory into the rest of India.

The government imposed a communication blackout with mobile phones, internet links and landlines down and detained scores of people including Mufti to prevent large-scale protests from erupting over the loss of autonomy for Indian-administered Kashmir.

Arrested alongside Mufti was former chief minister of the state Omar Abdullah as well as Ali Mohammad Sagar and Sartaj Madni, two regional party leaders.

Omar Abdullah and his father Farooq Abdullah – also a former chief minister of the state – were released earlier this year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies