NEW DELHI — Indian authorities have charged Farooq Abdullah, the most senior mainstream politician in Kashmir and a serving member of the Indian Parliament, under a controversial law that allows detentions of up to two years without trial.
The detention of Abdullah, 81, is part of India’s ongoing clampdown in Kashmir that began on Aug. 5 after the government announced it would strip the region of its autonomy and statehood .
India has arrested politicians, lawyers, activists, party workers, young men and some minors in the crackdown, describing them as threats to public order or likely to participate in violent protests that could turn deadly.
Abdullah was charged on Sunday night under the Public Safety Act, said Munir Khan, a senior police official in Kashmir. He declined to describe the nature of the accusations against Abdullah. The law permits bureaucrats to order lengthy detentions that are reviewed by advisory boards, not sitting judges.
More than 3,000 people have been detained in Kashmir since Aug. 5, including the region’s most prominent mainstream political leaders. Many of the politicians are being held at a hotel-turned-detention center on the shores of Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir’s capital.
Such politicians are neither separatists nor militants but represent the pro-India camp in Kashmiri politics: They have taken the position that Kashmir’s future rests within India, although with a degree of autonomy to be determined through dialogue.
Abdullah served as the chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir three times and is a current member of the upper house of India’s Parliament. Two other former state chief ministers, Omar Abdullah, Farooq’s son, and Mehbooba Mufti, were also detained.
Some of the detentions are being carried out under provisions in India’s criminal procedure code that allow preventive arrests to maintain peace. Others, however, are taking place under the auspices of the Public Safety Act, a law that critics describe as draconian . Authorities have used the statute to detain young people they accuse of engaging in stone-throwing protests or of joining militant groups that have waged a long-running anti-India insurgency.
It is not clear what the nature of the allegations are against Abdullah, a veteran politician who most recently met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi just days before the move to scrap Kashmir’s autonomy.
Abdullah was placed under a form of house arrest soon after Aug. 5. His detention was later challenged in India’s Supreme Court by a fellow member of Parliament. Experts said that charging Abdullah under the stringent Public Safety Act is likely a means to justify his continued detention.
Families of detained politicians and party workers say they fear that challenging their relatives’ arrests will only land them in further legal jeopardy, for instance in the form of fresh charges under the Public Safety Act.
Shahnawaz Ahmad Mir, who was a youth leader for the People’s Democratic Party, a mainstream party in Kashmir, was arrested at his home in the wee hours of Aug. 5. His family said he had started political activity earlier this year and that his grandfather had been killed by anti-India militants. Mir has been held at the main jail in Srinagar under a form of preventive detention.
His wife Naziya Lone said that during a recent brief visit, Mir looked pale and emaciated.
“It is depressing that he has been treated like a hardened criminal,” she said. Mir’s uncle, Ghulam Hassan Mir, said that the way his nephew and other pro-India politicians have been treated has “broken the trust between India and Kashmiris.”
Ishfaq Naseem in Srinagar contributed to this report.
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