Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was released on Tuesday, more than 14 months after she was detained following the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir special status on August 5, 2019.
Mufti, 61, is the last of the J&K prominent mainstream political leaders to have been set free after the constitutional changes split the region into two Union territories.
“After more than a year of detention, our party president Mehbooba Mufti released today,” said Najmu Saqib, PDP spokesperson. Government spokesman Rohit Kansal earlier announced the government’s decision about her release on Twitter. Her party said that she would be addressing a press conference on Friday.
Shortly after her release, Mufti released an audio statement on social media, saying she will continue to fight for the revocation of Article 370.
“I am free today after more than a year. During this time, the dark decision of August 5, 2019, the black day, would always pain my heart and soul. I realise that the people of J&K would have the same feeling. Nobody among us can forget the day’s assault and humiliation. Now, we all will have to reiterate that the unconstitutional and undemocratic decision of August 5 and that which was snatched from us by Delhi Darbar will have to be reversed. Also, we will have to carry on our struggle for the solution of Kashmir’s issues for which thousands gave their lives. I agree this path is not easy but I am hopeful that our resolve will help us in this. Now that I have been released, I also demand the release of the people of Jammu and Kashmir who have been jailed in different prisons of the country.
Mufti’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), ran a coalition government in the undivided state with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) until the alliance collapsed in June 2018 that prompted the imposition of Governor’s Rule.
The former CM was arrested on August 5 from her official residence and lodged at Chesmashahi huts. She was moved to a government building close to the MLA hostel, where other detainees were held, in November.
In April this year, Mufti was moved to her official residence at Fairview on Gupkar Road. Iltija Mufti, Mehbooba’s daughter who has been handling her mother’s Twitter handle since the detention, expressed her gratitude to those who supported her and signed off from the handle.
“As Ms Mufti’s illegal detention finally comes to an end, Id like to thank everybody who supported me in these tough times. I owe a debt of gratitude to you all. This is Iltija signing off. May allah protect you,” she wrote.
Mufti’s release came two weeks after the Supreme Court asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration if the former chief minister’s detention under PSA can be extended beyond a year and, if so, “how long do you propose to extend it”. The bench had fixed the next date of hearing on Thursday.
Iltija had moved the Supreme Court in September seeking to modify her petition challenging her mother’s continued detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) from February 5 and the subsequent two extensions.
Mufti was initially put under preventive detention under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and then just before her detention was to expire in February 2020, the government invoked the Public Safety Act on February 5 to keep her behind the bars. This law empowers authorities to hold any person from thee months to two years without any trial.
The administration had extended her detention by three months on July 31 2020, even as it had released People’s Conference chief Sajjad Gani Lone.
Political leaders in and outside Kashmir, including those from Opposition Congress, like Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, have been demanding her release.
Nearly all of Kashmir’s mainstream political leaders were detained hours before the central government abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded special status to the region, and bifurcated the state into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and Ladakh without one.
Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, the two other former chief ministers and National Conference leaders, were later released on March 13 and March 24 2020, respectively. Mufti’s release has been widely welcomed.
“I’m pleased to hear that MehboobaMufti Sahiba has been released after more than a year in detention. Her continued detention was a travesty & was against the basic tenets of democracy. Welcome out Mehbooba,” NC vice president Omar Abdullah wrote.
“MehboobaMufti has apparently been released. Great news. She has been through a very tough time. Wishing her all the best,” said Peoples’ Conference chairman Sajad Lone.