Mehbooba Mufti set free after 14-month detention, says 'none of us can forget August 5 robbery and insult'

File Photo of Mehbooba Mufti

After more than a year-long detention, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti was released by the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Tuesday night.

An order issued by the Home department of the J&K government said the detention of the former Chief Minister is “revoked with immediate effect.”

“In exercise of powers conferred under section 19 (1) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978, the Government hereby revokes the detention order bearing no. DMS/PSA/147/2020 dated 05-02-2020 issued by the District Magistrate Srinagar which was last extended for a period of three months dated 31-07-2020 of Ms Mehbooba Mufti D/O Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed R/o Bijbehara A/P Nowgam, Srinagar with immediate effect,” reads the order.

The news regarding Mufti’s release first circulated after government spokesperson Rohit Kansal took to Twitter and wrote: “Ms Mehbooba Mufti being released.”

Mehbooba Mufti who was detained along with hundreds of political leaders and workers before and on August 5 last year as the Government of India scrapped special Constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir was the only political leader who continued to be under detention for so long. Mufti was first detained at a government accommodation on MA Road and was shifted to her residence at Gupkar Road in April after the administration declared it a sub-jail. Mufti was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and her detention was extended twice but her daughter Iltija filed a petition in the Supreme Court for her mother’s release.

It may be recalled that two former chief ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, who were also under detention for almost seven months, were released in March this year.

It was only last month that the government set free eight senior PDP leaders from home detention after which the party held its first ever meeting after a year to discuss the prevailing political situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the way forward for the party.

After being released Mehbooba posted an audio clip on Twitter and said: “I have been set free after more than a year today.” “All this while the dark day of August 5, 2019 and the decisions taken on this day kept troubling me heart within hearts. I fully realise that the same feeling would have been that of all the people of Jammu and Kashmir. None of us can forget the robbery and insult committed on that day (August 5, 2019) and now we all must firmly decide that what was snatched away in an unconstitutional and undemocratic manner would be restored,” Mufti said.

“Besides we need to strive for Kashmir issue for which thousands of people have lost their lives. I agree this path would not be an easy one but I am hopeful that our zest and strong belief will help us reach to cross our goal. Today when I have been released, I would like that all those persons from Jammu and Kashmir detained in various jails of the country must be immediately released,” Mufti said.

Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti, who has been vocal about her mother’s release took to Twitter just minutes after Mehbooba was set free and wrote: “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. May Allah protect you.”

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah welcomed Mufti’s release. “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,” wrote Omar on Twitter.

The Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president G A Mir also welcomed Mufti’s release. “This is a step in the right direction,” Mir said in a statement. Mufti’s release comes a day after Mir had said that any forward movement on the Gupkar Declaration signed by all major mainstream parties to safeguard special status of J&K will take place only after Mufti’s release.

The signatories of the Gupkar Declaration had passed a resolution on August 22 this year saying they stood firm by it. NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah who is leading the political parties which are signatories of the declaration had said that despite Mufti’s detention, the political leaders had consulted her before passing a resolution on the Gupkar Declaration.

PDP spokesperson Suhail Bukhari said the PDP president would be addressing her maiden press conference after her release on Friday. PDP which is one of the signatories of the Gupkar Declaration has been reiterating its stand that “it would fight tooth and nail for restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.” Interestingly, a meeting of PDP which was scheduled to take place at the residence of PDP patron Muzaffar Hussain Beigh in August was cancelled after the government did not allow the detained leaders to participate. However, reportedly a section of PDP leaders were not willing to attend the meeting in absence of Mufti and had said that their participation would be only in presence of her.

It was in 2015 that PDP and BJP stitched  an alliance after consultations took two months for finalising the common minimum programme – the Agenda of Alliance. On March 1, 2015, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was sworn in as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir for the second time which also marked the end of Governor’s rule.

On January 7, 2016 Sayeed passed away at AIIMS, New Delhi after a brief illness. In January 2016, Governor’s rule was imposed again as PDP-BJP failed to come to an arrangement for continuing the alliance. The  PDP had expressed reservations on the implementation of the agenda of alliance and showed reluctance to lead the government which led to continuation of Governor’s rule. However, on March 22, 2016 Mehbooba Mufti met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and after the meeting announced that she was satisfied with the assurances from the Centre. On April 4, 2016 Mehbooba Mufti took the oath as the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir which ended the Governor’s rule. After a bumpy ride, difference of opinion between the alliance partners on various issues including handling of the Kathua rape case came to the forefront, resulting in withdrawal of BJP’s support to PDP. The alliance broke in 2018 and Jammu and Kashmir was again put under Governor’s rule.