India

Farooq Abdullah: Outrage over detention of senior Kashmiri MP

National Conference president and MP Farooq Abdullah arrives to attend the Budget Session at Parliament House on July 15, 2019 in New Delhi, India. Image copyright Getty Images

The detention of a veteran Kashmiri parliamentarian and former chief minister under a controversial law has generated heated debate in India.

Farooq Abdullah is now detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA), which among other things, allows detention without formal charge for two years.

He had previously been under house arrest along with other leaders ahead of a move to strip Kashmir of its special status in August.

His detention has been criticised.

Many, including veteran journalists and politicians, have condemned the move as "draconian" and argued that it sets a dangerous precedent.

"If an 81-year-old politician is seen as a threat to public safety then it flies in the face of the government claim that the situation in the Kashmir valley is returning to normal," senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai said in a television programme that is being widely shared on social media.

The leader of the the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM) Sitaram Yechury called the decision a "cowardly afterthought" and said that Mr Abdullah had "supported India through thick and thin". Salman Khurshid, a leader with the main opposition Congress party, said that Mr Abdullah had "upheld the unity and integrity" of India.

Regional politician MK Stalin tweeted that the move was "excessive, arbitrary and unlawful".

The announcement that Mr Abdullah would now be detained under the PSA came hours after a regional politician from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Vaiko, filed an application in the Supreme Court, asking for Mr Abdullah to be produced before the court.

He had said that there were "competing claims" about where Mr Abdullah - a member of India's upper house of parliament - was.

The court, in turn, asked the government to respond by 30 September.

Earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah had told parliament that Mr Abdullah was "not detained". He was responding to criticism that the government had not followed procedure in informing parliament about the arrest of a member of the house beforehand.

Correspondents say the decision to detain Mr Abdullah could well be an attempt to pre-empt any court decision compelling the government to release him even for a few days, as this could be used as a precedent to release other people currently under detention.

The government is believed to have detained thousands of people including activists, local politicians and businessmen. Many have been shifted to jails in cities outside the region.

However, there has been some social media support for the government's decision as well.

The government has not made any public statement regarding the order to detain Mr Abdullah under the PSA.

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