“We have to take back what the Delhi Durbar took from us with an illegal, undemocratic decision,” were the first words of former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti soon after her release from detention. 60-year-old Mufti, is now all set to launch a political fight for repealing the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370, withdraw special status and divide J&K into two Union Territories. Mufti minced no words in her short message to her followers, which was released shortly after her release from over a year of detention.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, the first woman to hold the post, and a former ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was arrested on the eve of August 5, with other political leaders. Over time the rest were resealed, but she continued to be detained.
“Ms Mehbooba Mufti being released,” Rohit Kansal, J&K Principal Secretary, tweeted at 9.17 pm on Tuesday.
Ms. Mehbooba Mufti being released @dipr
— Rohit Kansal (@kansalrohit69) October 13, 2020
That the BJP had kept a former ally Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), under detention since the eve of April 5 2019, made global headlines. Over a year later, on September 29, the Supreme Court had told the administration of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to respond to Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti’s fresh plea challenging the detention. The former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was detained under the J-K Public Safety Act, and the SC said that this detention could not be forever. A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy also said that the PDP leader placed a request to the authorities to allow her to attend party meetings. The SC also allowed Iltija and her uncle to meet Mehbooba in detention.
Now, that detention is over, and Mufti is all set to “take back” what she says was taken away from the people of J&K. “I have been released after a period of over a year… during this the August 5 black decision has played on my heart and mind.. all the time… I am aware that what Delhi Durbar snatched away undemocratically we have to take it back. We have to continue to struggle to solve the Kashmir issue. It is not an easy path…” she said in her audio message.
She also demanded the release of other political prisoners from the region, “I want all those from J&K incarcerated in jails across india be released… Thousands have lost lives because of (the) Kashmir issue. We have to continue the struggle for now. I agree, this won’t be easy on any of us.” she said.
After being released from fourteen long months of illegal detention, a small message for my people. pic.twitter.com/gIfrf82Thw
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 13, 2020
Mufti has said that “none of us can forget the “insult” and “humiliation” we faced on August 5 when Article 370 was repealed “illegally” and in an “anti-democratic” manner.
The PDP leader’s release has come just two days before the Supreme Court was to hear the matter related to her detention. According to news reports the Deputy Commissioner ordered that the PSA was revoked with immediate effect on October 14. Mufti’s detention had been extended for three months on July 31 2020, she had initially been put under preventive custody on August 5 2019, and was booked under the stringent PSA on February 6 2020.Her official residence was declared a subsidiary jail by the authorities who shifted her there on April 7 2020.
The fight for her release was helmed by her daughter Iltija who has expressed happiness that her mother was finally released from detention, which she alleged was “illegal, unlawful and a complete travesty of justice”. “I now hope that other youths who have been detained for over a year in various jails in and outside the state are also released soon,” Iltija told the media.
“There is a sense of huge relief,” Iltija Mufti told NDTV when asked about relinquishing control of her mother’s social media account, “Twitter is a toxic place. Glad I will not be on it anymore. My mother will finally use her own Twitter handle. It felt abnormal to use hers.”
In February Iltija Mufti spoke of the pressure on her mother and her because of the detention and said they “furtively exchanged letters” to stay in touch.
Her joy was palpable as she also signed off from her mother’s Twitter handle which she took charge of to share regular updates. “As Ms Mufti’s illegal detention finally comes to an end, I’d 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. فی امان اﷲ May allah protect you”
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. فی امان اﷲ May allah protect you
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 13, 2020
Mufti has since then been responding to messages of congratulations and solidarity from leaders across political lines. MK Stalin, President, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) | Leader of Opposition, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, asked that “the Govt to release all other political detainees as well. The democratic processes, which have been suspended during this time, must also be reinstated.”
I’m pleased to hear that @MehboobaMufti has been released from detention after 14 months.
I urge the Govt to release all other political detainees as well.
The democratic processes, which have been suspended during this time, must also be reinstated.
— M.K.Stalin (@mkstalin) October 14, 2020
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah welcomed her back to freedom
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.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) October 13, 2020
Vertran leader P. Chidambaram, Member of Parliament, RajyaSabha and the Former Finance Minister, said it was “Sad that the central government and the J&K administration have not yet realized the enormity of the abuse of law,” adding that “all mainstream parties in J&K should come together to fight the tyranny of the central government”
Happy that Ms Mehbooba Mufti has been finally released after 14 months of unjustified detention
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) October 13, 2020