Freed after 7 months, Omar Abdullah: Coronavirus fight first, will discuss J&K later

Naveed Iqbal
Freed after 7 months, Omar Abdullah: Virus fight first, will discuss J&K later

Omar Abdullah seeks the release of others held in and outside J&K. (Express)

Ten days after his father Farooq Abdullah’s detention was revoked by the Jammu and Kashmir administration, former J&K Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah was released from the Srinagar subsidiary jail at Hari Niwas where he was held for over seven months.

Abdullah drove the distance from Hari Niwas on Gupkar Road to his residence on the same road. He was detained ahead of the August 5 announcement ending J&K’s special status under Article 370 and its division into two new Union Territories.

In February, Abdullah was charged under the Public Safety Act along with former Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti who remains under detention.

Sporting a beard, Abdullah stepped outside at 1.25 pm to make a statement. “In my period of detention I had thought a lot about what I would say the J&K as a state was broken up into two Union Territories and what I would say about the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Saying he will speak at length about the politics and the situation in J&K post August 5, Omar demanded the release of those from J&K imprisoned in jails outside the UT.

“There are two things to be considered first. One, we have to fight coronavirus. Second, all of our people who are incarcerated in jails, either within or outside J&K. In these difficult times, the Centre should release them and bring them home. It is my earnest appeal to the Centre to lift restrictions on communication, if nothing else, please restore 3G/4G.”

Cautioning against the spread of Covid-19, Abdullah said, “Those still in detention, whether it is Mehbooba Mufti, my colleagues from National Conference, PDP or any other party and many others who do not belong to any organisation, remain incarcerated since August; in these difficult times, they should be allowed to return to their families.”

Highlighting the hardships faced by the people of the UT in the course of the last eight months, Abdullah said, “Whether it is 370 or 35A, or UT status or its bifurcation, we will discuss this when we have countered this disease.”

Posting his release order and a photograph showing him in his car, Abdullah said on Twitter, “232 days after my detention today I finally left Hari Niwas. It’s a very different world today to the one that existed on 5th August 2019.”

He also changed his Twitter bio, to add “Former PSA Political detinue” to his profile.

Escorted by heavy security, he then walked to his father’s residence for lunch from where he posted a picture with his parents. On Twitter, he thanked his sister, his lawyers and their legal teams for “taking the fight against my unjust PSA detention to the SC”.

The PSA dossier that formed the basis for Abdullah’s detention noted his “to influence people for any cause can be gauged from the fact that he was able to convince his electorate to come out and vote in huge numbers even during the peak of militancy and poll boycotts”. Before February, he was being held under provisions of preventive detention under Section 107 of the CrPC. In March, Abdullah celebrated his 50th birthday, while in detention.

Welcoming Omar’s release, politicians also called for the release of other leaders in the state. “After eight long months of totally unjustifiable detention, we welcome the release of Omar Abdullah. Immediately, Mehbooba Mufti, Shah Faesal and thousands of others detained in and outside J&K must be freed. Given the nation-wide clampdown over COVID19, this is an imperative,” CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Twitter.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also took to Twitter: “So happy to learn that @omarabdullah’s unconstitutional and undemocratic detention has been revoked at last. Its about time the union government restores democratic and constitutional rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well.”