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Most J&K detainees released barring one leader, 50 separatists

Most J&K detainees released barring one leader, 50 separatists

The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government has released almost all the mainstream and separatist leaders, including the President of the High Court Bar Association Mian Abdul Qayoom, who had been arrested and detained in apprehension of law and order issues around the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in and after August 2019.

Qayoom had been barred by the Supreme Court of India from entering the Valley before 7 August, in order to ensure that his presence did not cause any trouble around the first anniversary of the erstwhile state’s conversion into a union territory. On Saturday, 8 August, after a year-long detention, he landed at the Srinagar airport from where he was silently brought home by his nephew.

According to Director General of Police Dilbag Singh, as many as 504 separatist leaders and activists have been released after they fulfilled the formality of signing a bond of 'good behaviour' before different executive magistrates. Most of them had been detained under Public Safety Act (PSA) or provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and could be released only after signing this undertaking. Many had initially refused to submit such an undertaking, some had filed habeas corpus petitions even as others did not approach the judiciary.

According to the DGP, the total number of separatists under detention at the end of June 2020 was just 50-60. All the mainstream political detainees, with the singular exception of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president and the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, have been released. Even Ms Mufti has been shifted from her detention centre at a government house to her residence on the Gupkar Road in Srinagar.

Interestingly, weeks before Qayoom’s release on 30 July 2020, the Government of India appointed this senior separatist leader’s son-in-law Javed Iqbal Wani as a judge for the J&K High Court. As senior Additional Advocate General, Wani had strongly defended the government’s order to detain his father-in-law under PSA and contested his bail applications. On his arguments, the J&K High Court upheld Qayoom’s detention under PSA. On 9 June 2020, President of India appointed Wani as a judge of the J&K High Court.

Earlier this year, Qayoom had been shifted to Delhi and lodged at Tihar Jail. A Division Bench of the J&K High Court had given him the option of renouncing his (secessionist) ideology which he refused.

On Qayoom’s behalf, senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Vrinda Grover challenged the J&K High Court judgement in the Supreme Court of India where the J&K Government agreed to release the petitioner as it believed that his peaceful presence in the Valley would no more lead to a law and order problem.

On the bipartisan agreement, the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court ordered Qayoom’s release on 29 July 2020 on the condition that he would not arrive in Srinagar before 7 August or issue any statement.

“Nature has been very kind to the place,” Justice Sanjay Kishen Kaul observed. “It is the human race that has been unkind. It is time for all wounds to be healed and look to the future within the domain of our country”. The court said that there was a lot of potential for tourism in J&K and hoped the erstwhile state would soon return to normalcy.

In the Valley’s separatist camp, Qayoom has been a very high profile activist, next only to the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani. Until recently, analysts were counting him as Geelani’s successor in the Hurriyat Conference. Significantly his release has come at a time when a storm of differences is stirring the separatist camp.

According to the DGP 5,500 youths had been detained after 5 August 2019 and most were released after three-four days of counselling and an assurance from their parents that they would not indulge in any violent acts like stone pelting. Around 1,200 of them were detained for allegedly indulging in violent acts.

Currently 17 of the 144 teenagers are in remand homes set up under the Justice Juvenile Act. Around 300 detainees, according to the DGP, had been released without extending their period of detention under PSA.

According to the DGP, 80 local youths had joined different militant groups in 2020, of who 38 had been killed while 20 were still active. He said that 150 militants had been killed in the current year. They included 30 Pakistani cadre and 39 ‘commanders’. All the guerrilla groups, he asserted, had been left without leadership at the top. Claiming remarkable achievements on the anti-militancy front in the last two years, the DGP said the over-ground support structure of the militants in Jamaat-e-Islami and Hurriyat has been shattered.

The DGP said a Terror Monitoring Group (TMG) has been set up with representatives from the J&K Police, Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax Department and a few other organisations to curb funding of militants and their supporters.

According to the DGP, there were 76 fatal casualties and 107 injuries in the security forces in the first seven months of 2019 while in the first seven months of 2020 the armed forces had suffered 36 casualties. Militancy-related incidents were down by 70 per cent — from 198 in the first seven months of 2019 to 124 in the same period in 2020..