Slapping the Public Safety Act (PSA) at Farooq Abdullah, whom Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister consulted on major issues, has come as a surprise for people in Jammu and Kashmir.

Farooq who did not let the National Flag down in Kashmir even during the peak of terrorism was detained by the government under the PSA on Sunday night.

His arrest has shocked particularly Kashmiris who considered Farooq as a staunch supporter of India.

His supporters had reconciled with his house arrest since 5 August when the Modi government abrogated the Article 370, but putting him under the draconian PSA is not being digested in the valley.

National Conference leaders point out that during Vajpayee era Farooq was tipped for the high post of Vice-President of India but by arresting him under the PSA the Modi government has pulled him down to the level of pro-Pakistan elements like Masarat Alam who organised the stonepelters in Kashmir.

They pointed out that during the crucial nuclear test at Pokhran, Vajpayee took Farooq with him to the site.

National Conference leaders have termed the detention of Farooq, who has been a Union minister and three-time chief minister, as “beyond shocking”. They said that booking under the PSA the biggest Indian among the Kashmiris has given a new twist to politics in J&K.

Most mainstream leaders, including Farooq’s son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party president and also ex-CM Mehbooba Mufti, have been under house arrest since 5 August.

“The person arrested is someone who has been a Union minister in the Government of India, a very senior politician and one of the most prominent faces in the country,” said Imran Nabi Dar, a leader of the NC. “The authorities slapped PSA on him without any justification. This totalitarian decision is beyond shocking,” he said.

Dar termed the decision as a repressive measure and said Farooq is a person who had held the country’s flag high during the worst turmoil. Another leader of NC and south Kashmir MP, retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi, termed the decision as “beyond imagination.”

Strongly condemning the arrest of Farooq under the PSA, the National Conference in Jammu described the “repressive act” as yet another assault on the democratic polity and ethos of the largest democracy of the world.

“What could be the lowest depth of the political bankruptcy of the present ruling dispensation than slapping of PSA on one of the tallest leaders of the country”, NC leaders said in a statement. They said detention of the veteran leader speaks of the “desperation of the government that has failed to contain the situation post revocation of the special status to Jammu and Kashmir”.

Continued detention of political leadership across the state for over 44 days speak volumes about the lack of understanding and insensitivity of the present ruling dispensation that has pushed the state into unprecedented crisis, they said, adding that the people stand completely “isolated, alienated, marginalized, victimised and disempowered”.

Questioning the rationale behind the action, National Conference leaders said that by resorting to “undemocratic, unethical and unconstitutional measures, the government of the time cannot muzzle the representative voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.