Top Union Home ministry officials on Friday conveyed to a parliamentary panel that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is getting normal and detained political leaders, including former chief ministers, will be released but gave no time-frame for it, sources said.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and Additional Secretary in the Home Ministry Gyanesh Kumar and other ministry officials briefed the parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs, chaired by senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, on the situation in the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha quizzed top government officials on the detention of political leaders, particularly three-time former chief minister and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah, who was charged under the controversial Public Safety Act on September 17.
Home ministry officials told the parliamentary panel that those detained under the PSA can challenge their detention in a designated tribunal.
If not satisfied with the order of the tribunal, they can move the high court. Abdullah is the only political leader detained under the PSA in Kashmir.
Sources said the MPs were also agitated about the prolonged detention of Abdullah's son Omar Abdullah as well as People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, both former chief ministers, who have been under detention since August 5, when the Centre withdrew Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two union territories.
Responding to questions on the release of the detained political leaders, Bhalla and his team of officers conveyed that some had been released and others will be freed gradually but refrained from giving any time line, sources said.
The home secretary, sources said, told the MPs that the situation in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir is getting normal, schools are open and the apple trade is going on, sources said.
The MPs also raised the issue of curbs on the internet in the Valley since August 5. Home ministry officials, it is learnt, said the restrictions were imposed as the internet could be used by terrorists for subversive activities as well as by anti-social elements to spread rumours.
The parliamentarians were told that there were 71,254 incidents of terror related violence in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990 in which 14,049 civilians, 5,293 security personnel and 22,552 terrorists were killed.
Home ministry officials also told the members that all Central laws have become applicable to the new UTs, state laws overlapping with Central laws stand repealed and remaining state laws brought in line with the Constitution of India.
The new political map of India depicting the two new UTs -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, which includes Pakistan occupied Kashmir and its so called capital Muzaffarabad and Gilgit-Baltistan -- was shown to the MPs during a presentation.
The new UT of Jammu and Kashmir has 22 districts with a population of approximately 122 lakh and there are two districts in UT of Ladakh -- Kargil and Leh, home ministry officials said in their presentation.
They also said all landline services, post paid mobile voice phone services have been restored in both UTs and restrictions under Section 144 on movement withdrawn or relaxed, except for night time restrictions in the Valley.
According to sources present at the meeting, differences between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress MPs cropped up over the issue of Jammu and Kashmir being discussed in the panel.
While BJP members cited the rule book to say the panel should not interfere in the work of the executive, Congress MPs said the issue was important and had to be discussed, the sources said.
Better to keep '3 persons' in detention if Kashmir remains peaceful: Jitendra Singh
The three former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers should remain in detention if it helps in maintaining peace in the Valley, Union minister Jitendra Singh on Friday told a group of officers who briefed him about the situation in the newly created Union Territory.
He said the government has to change the narrative on Jammu and Kashmir in a bid to have good governance and development in the region with a focus on the youth.
Referring to the detention of former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, Singh said, "If the situation is peaceful, because they are detained, then it is better that they remain detained."
He was addressing the officers after inaugurating a two-day regional conference in Jammu, which will focus on the implementation of good governance practices in the region.
The regional conference, which is being organised on the theme of 'replication of good governance practices in the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh', also witnessed the presence of LG Girish Chandra Murmu.
Singh said the narrative on J and K has to change so that the fruits of good governance and development reach to the people.
"There is a section of people who don't know what they have been deprived of. The deprivation happened to that extent," he said.
"We have a new dispensation and new order reporting directly to the Centre and we owe it to the people of this region to cooperate with them and make it successful," the minister said.
"We owe it to youth because they comprise 70 per cent of the population. They have deprived of enormous opportunities that were unfolded by the Modi government in the last five years. Aspiration of the youth is litmus test for us", he said.
Cong asks govt if Farooq Abdullah will attend Parliament
The Congress on Friday attacked the Modi government over the detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, and asked whether sitting Lok Sabha member from Srinagar Farooq Abdullah will be allowed to attend Parliament from Monday.
The opposition party also alleged that the Centre had left 'no stone unturned in internationalising Kashmir' and hit out at the government for allowing European Union lawmakers to visit the Valley but not Indian leaders.
"Kashmir has been in a lockdown situation for the last 103 days. The prime minister (Narendra Modi) is going around the world saying 'all is well'," Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said at a press conference.
He said the government must give reasons as to why it has kept leaders of established political parties under detention.
When Farooq Abdullah 'sings 'Ram Bhajan' or says 'Bharat Mata ki Jai'', he does not think what the response of separatist forces will be, Khera said.
"Is it not that Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti take their oaths under the Constitution of India. Omar Abdullah has held several positions in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet, you have been in a government with Mehbooba Mufti, and today you have put them in the same category as separatists," the Congress leader said.
During the Parliament session from November 18 to December 13, the Congress will raise its voice for all those mainstream leaders who are under detention in Jammu and Kashmir, Khera said.
The Congress spokesperson hit out at the Modi government for granting a delegation of EU MPs access to Kashmir when parliamentarians of the country were not allowed.
A delegation of 23 EU MPs made a two-day visit to Kashmir last month aimed at a first-hand assessment of the ground situation in the Valley after the revocation of the state's special status.
"How come foreign countries can gather courage to ask questions on our internal issues," Khera said.
"We would like to make it clear... Kashmir was, is and will always be an integral part of India," he said.
Not just former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and ex-home minister Vallabhbhai Patel, but also all those mainstream leaders in detention in J-K today have made an important contribution in Kashmir being an integral part of India, Khera said.
"Operation successful and the patient is dead, is that your solution," he said.