Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has retracted her decision to put separatists leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, under house arrest to prevent them from holding a protest rally against the proposal to set up a Sainik Colony in Kashmir.

Mehbooba, according to ANI report, has decided to go soft on the separatist leaders and has given a nod to their release.

The issue had been a soft spot for the Mufti government ever since she assumed power after the demise of her father and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The row started when reports surfaced that the government is planning to allot land for setting up shelters for the Kashmiri Pandits and army personnel in the state.

The Mufti government had however, tried to dismiss it as a “demand made by the state subjects” which is still under review. She also clarified that the colony has nothing to do with ‘non-state subjects’. Taking on the opposition for blowing the issue out of proportion, Mufti had said that gossip mongrels were using a non-issue to “disrupt peace in the valley.”

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mebooba Mufti. AFP

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mebooba Mufti. AFP

However, the proposal for the colony did not specify whether non-state subjects could be allocated the space or not, drawing Mufti government much flak from the Opposition and the separatist leaders, reports said.

Following this, in an unprecedented move, both the factions of separatist groups,  Hurriyat conference and the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) had decided to come together against the government’s decision allocate land for separate colonies for Army personnel and Kashmiri Pundits in the valley.

The hard-line separatist leader Geelani and JKLF leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq met and agreed that it was a do or die situation for Kashmiris and freedom fighter, according to an India Today report.

The two groups decided to come together to launch a campaign against the establishment of Sainik Colony in the valley. Following this, the government had ordered a house arrest for the two senior leaders to preserve the law and order situation in the valley, and arrested the JKLF chief Muhammad Yasin Malik— which it later backed away from.

Earlier on 25 May, the Jammu and Kashmir government had ordered the arrest of Malik on the eve of another such protest rally planned in the state.

The separatists have condemned any efforts to establish pockets of kashmiri Pandit and army settlements, stating it is an attempt “to change Kashmir’s demography”. The Hurriyat spokesperson had alleged that the new communal government will use its entire force and machinery to dilute Kashmir’s demography to suit its own agenda, according to a India Today report.

The Mufti government has however categorically denied allegations of giving a go-ahead to Sainik Colony, according to The Indian Express report.

The Opposition has raked up the issue in the Assembly several times, staging protests and walk-out from the House. The National conference leader, Omar Abdullah‘s series of tweets have angered the chief minister much.

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Sainik Colony row: Mufti does U-turn; releases separatists Geelani, Farooq from house arrest