With the Jammu and Kashmir government announcing Block Development Council polls, almost all political leaders of Jammu have been freed from house arrest nearly after two months of detention.

However, their counterparts in the Kashmir Valley including NCP’s Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah, PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, J&K People’s Conference’s Sajjad Gani Lone still remain under preventive detention.

Almost all leaders from the National Conference (NC), Congress and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) in Jammu have been freed from their detention, reports said.

The Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government has defended the detention of political leaders saying that they were made in accordance with the provisions of law to maintain law and order in the Valley.

Jammu and Kashmir was put under virtual curfew on 5 August when the Modi government scrapped the Article 370 and split the state into two union territories.

The Government has affirmed that restrictions in Kashmir are aimed at preventing Pakistan from creating trouble through proxies and terrorists.

Recently, Union minister Jitendra Singh had said that no politician in Jammu and Kashmir will be detained beyond 18 months and asserted that they are not under arrest, but are living as “house guests”.

“Political leaders have been kept in VIP bungalows. We have even given them CDs of Hollywood movies. Gym facility has also been provided to them. They are not under house arrest. They are house guests,” said Jitendra Singh.

BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav on Monday said that “only 200-250 people are under preventive detention in view of the law and order situation in the Valley, adding that they have been kept under preventive detention respectfully, some in five-star guest houses, while some in five-star hotels.

The Jammu and Kashmir state Election Commission on Sunday announced that the Block Development Council (BDC) elections will be held on October 24.

Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar said the elections will be held will be held from 9 am to 1 pm on October 24, and votes will be counted from 3 pm. Elections will be held in 310 of 316 blocks in the state, a week before Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh are notified as Union Territories.

26,629 elected Panchs and Sarpanchs will elect 310 Block Development Chairpersons in the first phase. This will be followed by polls for 22 District Level Chairpersons for the District Development Boards.

The recent announcement is seen as a move to create a new set of grass-root level leaders since most of the local leaders including former chief ministers have been detained following abrogation of Article 370.

Meanwhile, Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind (JIH) on Tuesday demanded all the political detainees should be set free to allow them to participate in the electoral exercise slated for October 24.

Jamaat head Syed Sadatullah Hussaini said, “any democratic process is good and panchayat elections are core to this. But for the sake of free and fair elections, all the political detainees should be set free, so that they can also participate in this process.”