Jammu and Kashmir: Detention is not the answer | Editorial HT – editorials
The decision to reserve the former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti under the Public Security Law (PSA), which allows detention for up to two years, is ethically questionable, legally flawed and politically counterproductive. The two leaders were hired under PSA shortly after completing six months in pretrial detention. Omar’s father, former CM Farooq Abdullah, is also being held under PSA. Sections of the media have cited a government file describing the charges. If these reports are accurate, Omar Abdullah has been accused of defending radical ideology, of having the ability to influence people and encourage agitation, and of instigating people against India. Ms. Mufti has also been accused of promoting separatism and making provocative statements that have led to violence.
The government’s approach to the detention of leaders is disconcerting. On the one hand, it violates the spirit of the Constitution. Individual freedom is at the heart of the democratic constitution. The government has not shown tangible evidence to suggest that Abdullahs or Mufti have done something to stir up violence or try to break the Union. Yes, these leaders have criticized the government’s decision to effectively nullify Article 370 in the state and divide it. Yes, they organize parties that can organize demonstrations in opposition to these movements. But this is their fundamental right as Indian citizens. If the government really wants to integrate J&K with the Union, it cannot do so without giving J&K citizens the same rights that Indians exercise elsewhere. Nor can it do so unless democratic activity is restored, which can really happen only when these leaders are released.
The measure also undermines the interests of the Indian state. The Abdullah and Ms. Mufti, in the most difficult moments, when the street environment was full of resentment against Delhi, and when Pakistan’s terrorist groups wreaked havoc, they defended the Union. The current charges against them defy common sense, as it is almost an implicit suggestion that their support for the Constitution and democracy deserves punishment. Will this not strengthen those who are against India? The Center may want to encourage a new force in Kashmir’s policy, but it should not happen by restricting individual rights. Delhi is weakening its own political and diplomatic case about Kashmir.