Omar Abdullah promises to revoke Public Safety Act if his party comes to power in Jammu and Kashmir

Srinagar: National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah said on Thursday the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), under which a person can be detained without trial for six months, would be revoked if his party was voted to power in Jammu and Kashmir.

Making the announcement at militancy-hotbed Pulwama district in south Kashmir, Omar said: "I do not wish to see the youth of the state behind bars without trial for months together. The parents crying for their children picked under the act." "If voted to power, PSA revocation will be ensured," the former chief minister said, leading to a Twitter spat with the National Conference's arch-rivals, the Peoples Democratic Party.

Omar Abdullah promises to revoke Public Safety Act if his party comes to power in Jammu and Kashmir

File image of former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah. PTI

There are as many as 230 people, including 180 from the state, who have been booked under the Public Safety Act. These include some separatist workers as well as Pakistani and other foreign nationals, who have completed their sentence but have not been taken by their respective countries of origin. The PDP was quick to dismiss Omar Abdullah's promise. "A party that convinced the idea and acts like PSA, POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), AFSPA to muzzle the dissent voices, rigged elections in 1987, booked elected people in jails and declared them militants are now asking for the majority to revoke PSA. Illogical!" the PDP tweeted.

Reacting to the criticism, Omar said: "I was expecting this panic reaction. Thank you for not disappointing me. You had a chance after 2014 when you people were praising PM (Narendra) Modi to the skies. Why didn't you revoke PSA or attempt to have AFSPA removed?" The Kashmiri leader said now people could choose the PDP and keep the PSA or choose his party to remove it. "To those of you Kashmiri leaders who are questioning NC's PSA related commitment I have simply this to say - you should have used your friendly ties with BJP to do it earlier. Now people have a choice vote for you to keep PSA or vote NC to remove it," he added.

The 48-year-old said his party was committed to bringing the state out of misery, despondency and darkness. "The masses reflecting the faith that #OnlyHal (plough — election symbol of the party) is the answer to their problems." The law — first enacted by the government led by Omar Abdullah's grandfather, Sheikh Abdullah, in 1978 to tackle timber-smuggling in forests — came handy for the police and security forces during the early 1990s when militancy broke out in the state.

After the then Union home minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, enforced the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state in 1990, the PSA act was used rampantly for picking up people in the state. Omar Abdullah said during his tenure as chief minister, he had strongly pitched for revocation of the AFSPA from some of the districts, including Srinagar, Jammu and Udhampur that were militancy-free. However, the then defence minister, AK Antony, opposed the move in cabinet meetings. The elections in the state have not been announced so far. The state assembly was dissolved on 21 November.

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Updated Date: Jan 31, 2019 23:57:56 IST

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