Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) for the proceedings of his internal party meetings and his influence on social media, according to authorities. It cited the “pro-separatist” stand of Mehbooba Mufti, another former chief minister, for booking her under the stringent act.
Mehbooba Mufti, 60, and Omar Abdullah, 49, had been under preventive detention since August 5 last year, when the Centre announced the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, thus revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. They were booked under the PSA on the night of February 6, barely a few hours before their preventive detention was to end.
According to rules, preventive detention can be extended beyond six months only if an advisory board, constituted two weeks before the completion of the 180-day period, recommends for that. However, no such board was constituted and the Jammu and Kashmir administration was left with two choices — either to release them or slap the PSA.
A three-page dossier against Omar cited some internal meetings of the National Conference in July in which he is alleged to have said there was a need for mobilising support so that the Centre will not be able to carry out its plans for the abrogation of special status of the state.
The police have also cited that Omar, who was a minister of state for external affairs as well as commerce and industries in the union government and former chief minister, was very active on social media, a platform that has the potential for mobilising the youth.
Restrictions have been put on communication links since August 5. These were subsequently eased. Internet is functional at a few places through leased lines. Mobile internet facility has been made functional but with a speed of 2G with special instructions that it would not be used to access social media sites.
However, the police have not specifically mentioned any of Omar’s social media posts in the dossier. “To the people of Kashmir, we don’t know what is in store for us… Stay safe and above all please stay calm,” was the last few tweets of Omar before he was taken to Hari Nivas for preventive detention.
Mehbooba has been slapped with the PSA for her remarks which included challenging accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India in case the Article 370 was abrogated. The statements of the former chief minister, whose party PDP was an ally of the BJP till June 2018, on security forces killing militants was also made a part of the PSA dossier against her.
Her support to the Jamaat-e-Islamia group of Jammu and Kashmir after it was declared as a banned organisation by the Centre under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) also figures in the dossier.
Omar’s father, Farooq Abdullah, who is a five-time chief minister and currently a member of Lok Sabha, was booked in September last year under the PSA, a law that was enacted by his father Sheikh Abdullah in 1978 to fight timber smugglers in the state as they would easily get away with minimal detention those days.
Sheikh Abdullah brought the Act as a deterrent against timber smugglers as it provided a jail term, without a trial, for up to two years. However, this Act came in handy for the police and security forces during the early 1990s when militancy erupted in the state.
After the then Union home minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed enforced the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state in 1990, authorities used the PSA to detain people. The Act was amended in 2012 and some of its stricter provisions were relaxed. After the amendment, the period up to which a first-time offender or individual can be put in detention without trial was reduced from two years to three months.
(With inputs from agencies)