Srinagar: Over 600 politicians and lawyers have been detained by authorities in Jammu and Kashmir since the intervening nights of 4 and 5 August, ThePrint has learnt.
A top government functionary told ThePrint that the detained individuals include those arrested by the state police; or put under preventive custody at detention centres; or house arrested; or sent to prisons outside Kashmir.
The figure does not account for other locals, mostly youth, who have been taken into custody from various parts of Kashmir on the apprehension that they may mobilise people in small towns and villages.
“Giving the total headcount will be difficult at the moment because there is no centralised mechanism overlooking the arrests. The arrests are being undertaken by local police. But roughly the numbers are more than 600,” said the government functionary who didn’t wish to be identified.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, former chief ministers of the state, are among those arrested. Current Srinagar MP and former state CM Farooq Abdullah, too, has been put under preventive custody at his Gupkar road residence in Srinagar.
The crackdown in the state started a night before the Modi government announced the abrogation of Article 370 that guaranteed special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
S.J.M. Geelani, additional director general of police (ADGP), J&K Police, confirmed that authorities have invoked the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) against the detained individuals, a law used liberally against separatists and alleged stone-pelters. Geelani, however, did not confirm if any senior political leaders were booked under the Act.
Under PSA, an individual can be detained or arrested without a trial for a maximum period of two years. Only the High Court has the jurisdiction to quash the PSA orders which are passed by district magistrates on recommendation of local police force.
Police officials have continued to refuse to divulge the exact number of arrests, number of PSAs invoked, or name of individuals booked under the controversial law.
There is also no word from officials on whether families of those booked under PSA are handed over the dossiers and orders passed under the law, which is a legal requirement. The functioning of the J&K High Court has remained affected, leaving little chance for families of arrested individuals to challenge the orders.
Meanwhile, authorities in Srinagar have established six detention centres which are currently housing some the most prominent mainstream political leaders of Kashmir, including Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
In an interview to ThePrint, J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik said, “They are in good places. Both of them are arrested, they are not under house arrest but they are in places as comfortable as I am.”
On Saturday, Jammu and Kashmir government spokesperson Rohit Kansal said the process of easing of restrictions is already in progress. Out of the 96 telephone exchanges in the Valley, 17 have been made functional, and by Sunday evening, all of them barring few in vulnerable areas will be functional.
Primary schools and all government offices will be reopened Monday.
Restrictions have also been eased in 35 police station areas, added Kansal.