NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir’s former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were arrested on Monday evening, soon after a proposed law to revoke the special status granted to the Himalayan state was cleared by the Rajya Sabha, a government official said, requesting anonymity.
Mufti and Abdullah were earlier placed under house arrest on Sunday night, following the imposition of Section 144 in the state. Both have vociferously opposed the scrapping of Article 370.
Meanwhile, a complete security lockdown has been put in place in Jammu and Kashmir following the Union government’s decision on Monday to scrap Article 370, revoking the special status to the state. The Centre has also stepped up vigil across the region to counter any law and order situation.
The decision could lead to instability in the volatile state, contested by both India and Pakistan. There could be far-reaching consequences as the political leadership in J&K, as well as the local population, is vehemently opposed to the Centre’s decision.
The announcement has also pushed security forces on overdrive to clamp down on possible political and civilian backlash following the decision to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into two Union territories. India’s military has also been put on red alert.
While all tourists and Amarnath pilgrims were asked to leave the Valley by Monday night, the Centre rushed 8,000 paramilitary troops, with an additional 30,000 on standby. Troops were airlifted from Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Assam.
While the Centre asserted in the Rajya Sabha that the decision would transform governance in the region after 70 years, defence experts said that the move would help the Centre establish permanent control over the region, while diminishing the control exercised by the separatists and militants in the Valley.
“With this move, the Centre has neutralized people who were responsible for the security threat in the valley. What it will do is throw up new leadership in the area and that will reshape the dominance the Centre has over the region. The separatists fuelled radicalization, and this is a ruthless response to that," said D.P.K. Pillay, a former National Security Council member, and research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
In a notification, the home ministry said: “In the overall interest and to strengthen national security…it is essential that the occasion is not allowed to be misused by inimical and anti-social elements to cause breach of security, peace and public harmony in any part of the country."
Home secretary Rajiv Gauba signed off on the order, instructing security forces and law enforcement agencies to be on the highest alert to thwart any security breach, and “..special attention may be paid to communally sensitive and other fragile areas".
Late on Sunday, Section 144 of the criminal procedure code (CrPC) was imposed, which prohibits gathering of four or more people. While all communication lines, including landlines, mobile phones and data services were snapped, the ministry has specified law enforcement agencies to also clamp down on any rumour mongering, “false and unscrupulous messages" that are likely to follow Shah’s decision.
Last week, 10,000 paramilitary troops were moved to J&K to bolster security ahead of Monday’s announcement. In less than a week, the Centre suspended the Amarnath Yatra for the first time in history, after the pilgrimage recorded a record 306,000 people when it was suspended.