India arrests former Kashmiri minister Farooq Abdullah

In this photo taken on May 23, Mr Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, flashes a victory sign after winning a Parliament seat. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
In this photo taken on May 23, Mr Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, flashes a victory sign after winning a Parliament seat. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • A former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, seen as being pro-India, has been arrested under a law allowing him to be held for up to two years without charge, the authorities said yesterday.

Mr Farooq Abdullah, 81, has been under house arrest since early last month when India stripped Kashmir of its autonomy, imposed a security lockdown and detained dozens of local politicians, including those who back the region being part of India.

But on Monday, Mr Abdullah was formally arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and his home turned into a "judicial lock-up", Mr Muneer Khan, a senior police official in Kashmir, told AFP.

It is the first confirmed case of a Kashmiri politician being arrested under the PSA since India's Aug 5 move, when it sent tens of thousands of troops to Kashmir and imposed a communications blackout.

India's national security adviser said earlier this month that a majority of Kashmiris supported its move, except for a "vocal minority" backed by Pakistan, which India has accused of backing a decades-old insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people.

But, in the wake of the lockdown, even pro-India politicians have spoken out about New Delhi's intervention.

A day after the Indian government revoked the special status, Mr Abdullah climbed a wall of his house to address the media and condemned the move. It was the last time he was seen in public.

"Why could they not wait? After 70 years, they have stabbed the people of the state. As soon as our gates open, our people will be out.

 
 
 

"We will fight, we will go to the courts. We're not gun-runners, grenade-throwers, stone-throwers, we believe in a peaceful resolution of things," Mr Abdullah said.

The PSA was introduced in the 1970s - under Mr Abdullah's father Sheikh Abdullah - to prevent timber smuggling.

But, since an uprising against Indian rule erupted in 1989, it has been used to detain thousands of people, activists say.

The United Nations' human rights office said last year that special laws in Kashmir, including the PSA, "have created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardise the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations".

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since 1947. The two nuclear-armed neighbours have since fought two wars over the region.

Mobile phones and the Internet remain cut off in much of the Kashmir Valley - the hotbed of resistance to Indian rule - more than six weeks after New Delhi's move, which it says was aimed at boosting the region's economy.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'India arrests former Kashmiri minister Farooq Abdullah'. Print Edition | Subscribe