India has freed a former chief minister of Kashmir who was detained 14 months ago along with thousands of others when New Delhi imposed direct rule on the disputed region with a huge security clampdown.
Mehbooba Mufti was released late Tuesday after remaining in custody since August 2019 when the Indian government imposed emergency laws, snapped all communications and sent thousands of extra troops into the Muslim-majority state.
Mufti, 61, was arrested along with three other former chief ministers and other top politicians under the Public Safety Act that allows authorities to keep people in custody for up to two years without charge or a trial.
The other three former chief ministers have since been released but many of the roughly 8,000 other detainees, including some politicians, remain in custody.
Mufti’s detention order was revoked late Tuesday, without authorities providing any explanation, just a day before India’s Supreme Court was scheduled to hear a petition in her case.
Mufti, who also heads the regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), ran the state from 2016 until 2018 before her alliance partner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, withdrew its support.
India’s government had justified her detention on the grounds that it prevented violence in the aftermath of the August 2019 move, which also saw the state split in two and downgraded to union territories governed directly from New Delhi.
Modi’s government says the revocation of Kashmir’s special status was necessary for the region’s development and for ending a three-decade armed rebellion that has left thousands dead, mostly civilians.
The Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan, with many in the region demanding an independent country.
Mufti released an audio statement on Twitter demanding the restoration of political rights and a final settlement of the political dispute.
“We will have to continue our struggle for the Kashmir issue for which thousands of our people have laid down their lives,” she said.