Farooq Abdullah asks leaders to unite to bring back all J&K detainees lodged outside UT

Adil Akhzer
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Farooq Abdullah

Former Chief Minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and Srinagar Member of Parliament Farooq Abdullah on Sunday urged all political leaders in the Valley to unite and demand that the Centre bring back all J&K detainees lodged in jails outside the Union Territory since August 5, 2019.

Abdullah, who is also the president of the National Conference issued his first statement after his release on Friday, after remaining under detention for 221 days.

Read | After 7 months in detention, Farooq Abdullah meets son Omar Abdullah

“Before we allow politics to divide us, I appeal to all political leaders here to unite behind the call to the Union government to bring back all detainees from J&K in prisons outside, pending their release. While we would like to see them all released as soon as possible, pending that, they should be shifted to J&K. This is a humanitarian demand and I hope others will join me in placing this demand in front of the government of India,” Abdullah said in a statement.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad met National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi)

Saying that he is “acutely aware that compared to hundreds of Kashmiri families, I have been far more fortunate,” the Srinagar MP said that on Saturday, “when I went to meet my son Omar - also detained under the Public Safety Act - I had to travel a kilometre from my home to be able to see him.”

“For families of most of detainees, meeting their loved ones is not nearly as easy. Their loved ones have been detained in jails spread across a number of states. They get two visits a month for which they have to spend large sums of money. They can ill-afford travelling to and staying in the vicinity of these prisons,” he added.

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Adding that he had “consciously” avoided making any political statements since his release on Friday, Abdullah said, “While I believe a free and frank exchange of political views is essential so that we can take stock of the momentous changes that J&K has seen after August 5, 2019, we are still some way away from an environment where such a political discourse will be possible. This is especially so considering the number of people detained in August last year who remain in jails outside J&K.”

According to Abdullah, the already onerous financial burden is made worse by the health risk “they now face because of Covid-19”. “At a time when people are being advised not to travel, these families are being forced to put their lives at risk in order to meet their loved ones for a few short but very precious hours,” he remarked.

Hundreds of youth, political workers and leaders were detained and a large number of arrested people were also shifted to jails outside the state ahead of the August 5 move last year.