- Restrictions on Jammu leaders released removed, sources say
- Decision to release them was taken since Jammu is peaceful, sources say
- Kashmir politicians, however, remain under detention or house arrest
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has ended the house arrest of all politicians in Jammu, nearly two months after the government scrapped special status for the state under Article 370 and imposed a security lockdown. Their counterparts in the Kashmir Valley, however, remain under detention or house arrest.
The Jammu leaders who were under house arrest have been released and restrictions on them have been removed, official sources said. "Yes, I was conveyed last evening by a police officer that there will be no restrictions on my movements," Devender Rana of the National Conference told NDTV.
The decision was taken days after the government announced election for the Block Development Council, the second tier of the Panchayat Raj system in the state.
Sources say that since Jammu region is peaceful, the decision to release political detainees was taken after the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Election Officer announced polling for the Block Development Council election on Monday.
Among those released from house arrest in Jammu are Devender Singh Rana. Raman Bhalla, Harshdev Singh, Chaudhary Lal Singh, Vikar Rasool, Javed Rana, Surjit Singh Slathia and Sajjad Ahmed Kitchloo.
Nearly 400 political leaders, including former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah, were either detained or placed under house arrest as part of as part of the centre's massive clampdown after its decision to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and split it into two union territories.
Farooq Abdullah, 83, who had been detained at his home in Srinagar was placed under house arrest and charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a stringent law that enables detention without trial for three to six months.
The Kashmir Valley has been shut for the last 57 days with communication and internet blockade.
In August, Ms Mufti's daughter, Sana Iltija Javed, wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah, stating she was worried about her mother's health, having not been able to contact her. She challenged her mother's detention and wrote: "Kashmiris have been caged like animals and deprived of basic human rights."
The situation also prompted the international community to voice its worries, with the United States declaring it was "concerned by reports of detentions".
The United Nations had said the situation was "deeply concerning".
The polling for over 300 Block Development Councils will be held on October 24 and counting will take place on the same day. Around 26,000 panchayat members are eligible to vote.
In the Jammu and Kashmir panchayat election last year, regional parties including the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not participate over the issue of special status. The election was largely boycotted in Kashmir and over 12,000 panchayat seats are still lying vacant.