What next?

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Even a people were expecting some kind of headway in the political impasse here in the wake of major political players of the Valley completing six months in detention, the authorities have further extended their preventive detention. For instance, while the three-time former chief minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah is already serving detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA), now two more former chief ministers – Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti too have been slapped with PSA. Besides them, NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, and PDP’s Sartaj Madni and Naeem Akhter too have been brought under the purview of this stringent public detention law. Certain other political leaders, including Peoples Conference chief Sajjad Gani Lone, who had been under detention since August 05 last year when Centre abrogated the J&K’s special status under Article 370 and 35-A, has been freed from temporary detention centre set up at MLA hostel, but kept confined at his residence under house-arrest.

So with all these developments during the past week, any possibility of some thaw in the political stalemate has been effectively shelved for now. What remains to be seen is whether any of these political big-wigs of Kashmir will approach courts to challenge their detention. Even as they have thus far chosen not to take any legal recourse, but the grounds mentioned by the administration in the dossiers prepared for their detention provides them a reason to think about the option.

For instance, Omar Abdullah’s “considerable influence” over people, including his ability to attract voters to polling booths despite poll boycott calls, and the potential for channelling energies of public for any cause, has been cited in support of his detention under the PSA. His political opponent and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti has been accused of making “anti-national” statements and extending support to organisations such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has been banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The dossier prepared against Omar, who had served as Minister of State for External Affairs as well as Commerce and Industries, also states his ability to convince electorates to vote in huge numbers even during the peak of militancy and poll boycott calls by separatists and militants. The grounds of detention against Omar, who was chief minister of the state from 2009-14, state that on the eve of reorganisation of the state he had made attempts to provoke general masses against the revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A. The grounds also mention his comments on social networking sites to “instigate common people” against the decisions on Articles 370 and 35-A which had the potential of disturbing public order.

However, the police have neither mentioned any of Omar’s social media posts in the dossier nor in the order for grounds of his detention. Nothing has also been said about his appeals for calm in the wake of Centre’s August 05 decision. “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 for preventive detention on August 05.

Interestingly, while various TV channels are extensively debating their detention, the government spokespersons have been defending the move with the simple explanation that if these leaders feel aggrieved they can approach courts. So in this changed situation and circumstance, will they choose this option remains to be seen. If they do, it will automatically trigger some kind of activity within the Valley’s political circles which otherwise has become a veritable desert in past six months.

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