The top leadership of Jammu and Kashmir under detention, got an unlikely support from the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who said that he is praying for an early release of the former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who have been booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) without charges.

News agency IANS in an exclusive interview of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh quoted him as saying that he will pray for the early release of the Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti from their detention. “I also pray that once they are out, they work and contribute towards improvement of the situation in Kashmir,” Singh said.

Singh said, “Kashmir has been peaceful. The situation is improving rapidly. Along with the improvement, these decisions (release of politicians from detention) will also be finalized. The government has not tortured anyone.”

The Defence Minister reiterated government’s stand on Jammu and Kashmir and said that  “everybody should welcome” the same.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who were under preventive detention for the past six month, were on February 6 booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) without charges, barely hours before their arrest was to come to an end.

Under PSA a person can be kept under detention without trial for up to two year.  Farooq Abdullah was slapped with the stringent PSA on September 17 last year which was reviewed by authorities on December 15, 2019 and it was agreed that he would continue to remain in detention for another 90 days.

Several political leaders were picked up from their residences on August 5 last year, the day the Centre had withdrawn the special status given to J-K under Article 370 of the Constitution and divided the state into two Union Territories — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Around 400 politicians including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were placed under house arrest.

The two Union Territories came into existence on October 31 last year.

A total of 35 mainstream politicians were moved from the Centaur Hotel on the banks of the Dal Lake to the MLA Hostel on November 18 as Srinagar reeled under harsh winter and the hotel lacked proper heating arrangement.

The Supreme Court on February 14 issued notice to the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea of Sara Abdullah Pilot, sister of Omar Abdullah, challenging his detention under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA), 1978.

The top court also asked the J-K administration to file a reply by March 2. The court has fixed March 2 as the next hearing on the matter and declined to list it before 15 days.

Meanwhile the three former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — continue to remain under detention and are now facing PSA.

Other political leaders who have been charged under the PSA are Ali Mohammed Sagar, Naeem Akhtar, Sartaj Madani,  Hilal Lone and former civil servant and chief of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement (JKPM), Shah Faesal.

The state government had earlier defended the preventive detentions of the leaders saying that they were made in accordance with the provisions of law to maintain law and order in the Valley.