The Jammu and Kashmir administration has ended house arrest of almost all political leaders from Jammu ahead of elections to the Block Development Councils (BDCs), Daily Excelsior reported on Tuesday.
Prominent National Conference leaders-Devender Singh Rana, Surjit Singh Slathia, Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo and Javed Rana, Congress leader and former Minister Raman Bhalla, Nationalist Panthers Party (NPP) leader Harshdev Singh, also a former Minister and some other political persons, who were under house arrest since August 5 following scrapping of special Constitutional provisions of the State and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, have been freed, Daily Excelsior quoted sources as having said.
All the political leaders detained in Jammu region were informed through concerned police stations that they were free to carry out their political activities now, they said.
Police officials, however, downplayed the end of house arrests of the politicians saying they were already free visiting New Delhi, shrines, temples, hospitals, attending functions and carrying out other normal works.
Devender Singh Rana, provincial president of National Conference and Surjit Singh Slathia, former Minister confirmed to the Excelsior that their house detention ended this evening. They said they were conveyed the decision to end the house detention by the police officials.
Raman Bhalla according to report said he got the message from police station late tonight. He described his nearly 55-day long detention in house as “completely unjustified” and “undemocratic”.
Panthers party leader Harshdev Singh said he told police officials yesterday that he will forcefully defy his detention in the house for past nearly two months and move out in view of announcement of the BDC elections. He said he received the message about end of his house detention tonight with conditions that he won’t give any controversial statement.
The report quoted sources as having said some other political leaders, who were under house arrest in Jammu region, have also been freed in view of the BDC elections, scheduled to be held on October 24.
PCC (I) president GA Mir, who was also detained in his house at Greater Kailash earlier, was presently in New Delhi, said the report.
It may be mentioned here that number of political leaders of National Conference, Congress and Nationalist Panthers Party were put under house arrest on August 5 the day the Central Government announced abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A and bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The step was taken as precautionary measure to prevent instigation of people.
However, following announcement of the Block Development Council elections in the State and that too on party-basis, the demand had grown for release of political leaders.
“The decision to end house detention of the political leaders has been taken keeping in view the Block Development Council elections,” the newspaper quoted sources as having said.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration and many prominent leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party have defended the move to put such leaders under preventive detention and said the action was taken to prevent any untoward incident after the scrapping of Article 370.
Just a few days ago, Union minister Jitendra Singh said that no politician in Jammu and Kashmir will be detained beyond 18 months and asserted that they are not under arrest, but are living as “house guests”.
“Political leaders have been kept in VIP bungalows. We have even given them CDs of Hollywood movies. Gym facility has also been provided to them. They are not under house arrest. They are house guests,” said Jitendra Singh.
Reiterating Singh’s statement, BJP leader Ram Madhav said yesterday that 200-250 leaders, who have been detained in Kashmir, are receiving five-star treatment.
Madhav said that initially 2,000 to 2,500 people were put under preventive detention in Kashmir and added that the number has now reduced to just 200-250.
“Today in Jammu and Kashmir only 200-250 people are under preventive detention in view of the law and order. They have been kept under preventive detention respectfully, some in five-star guest houses, some in five-star hotels,” said the BJP national general secretary.
“I would also like to say that 200-250 people have been put under preventive detention and there has been peace in Kashmir for two months. You can understand what the people of Kashmir want and what these 200-250 people want,” said Madhav.
It has come to light that over 250 writ petitions have been filed against the preventive detention orders against prominent political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. Petitions have also been filed in the Supreme Court against the detentions as well.