Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti were on Thursday night booked under the stringent Public Safety Act, barely hours before their six-month-long “preventive detention” was to come to an end.
Earlier in the day, the PSA was also slapped on two political stalwarts from National Conference and its arch-rival People’s Democratic Party.
A magistrate accompanied by a police officer arrived at Hari Nivas where 49-year-old Omar has been detained since August 5, the day the Centre abrogated the special status of the erstwhile state and also announced its bifurcation into two union territories — Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
He was handed over a warrant issued under the PSA, a law which was enacted by his grandfather Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah in 1978 initially to check timber smuggling.
The PSA, which came handy for police force to book separatists and militant sympathisers, has two sections — ‘public order’ and ‘threat to security of the state’.
The former allows detention without trial for six months and the latter for two years.
Omar, who has been junior foreign minister and commerce minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led Cabinet in 2000, was served with a three-page dossier in which he was alleged to have made statements in the past which were “subversive” in nature.
Omar, who was the chief minister of the state from 2009 to 2014, rose to fame in 2008 with his famous five minute speech at Parliament when he, despite being in opposition, supported the Indo-US nuclear deal.
“I am a Muslim and I am an Indian,” he said. “And I see no distinction between the two. I don’t know why should I fear the nuclear deal. It is a deal between two countries which, I hope, will become two equals in the future,” Omar had said and warned that the enemy of Indian Muslims was not America or deals like these.
Omar’s father, Farooq Abdullah, was booked under the PSA in September last year which was reviewed again in December for a period of three months.
Similarly, the magistrate and a police officer visited Mehbooba Mufti at the government accommodation, which had been converted into a subsidiary jail, and was handed over the dossier in which her statements from 2010 were cited as reasons for keeping her in detention.
Mufti’s PDP was an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party from 2014 and the two had formed a government in the erstwhile state till 2018 when the BJP suddenly withdrew its support and governor’s rule was imposed.
Iltija, the daughter of Mufti, said their lives resemble an ‘Orwellian dystopia’ where the establishment brooks no dissent or difference of opinion.
“A government that shows utter disregard for our Constitution and is willing to sacrifice values of equality, fraternity and social justice at the altar of power,” she said.
National Conference general secretary and former minister Ali Mohammed Sagar, who wields a support base in downtown city, was served with a PSA notice by the authorities.
Similarly, senior PDP leader Sartaj Madani was booked under the PSA. Madani is the maternal uncle of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
Both Sagar and Madani were detained in the aftermath of August 5 crackdown by the Centre on politicians.
Their six-month preventive custody was ending on Thursday.
Earlier, the officials had said that former NC legislator Bashir Ahmed Veeri was also booked under the PSA but later it turned out that he had been released.