Warring Abdullah Families Unite After Article 370’s Repeal

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Khalida Shah and Dr Farooq Abdullah

SRINAGAR – After nearly four decades of estrangement, the families of detained National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah and his elder sister and leader of the Awami National Conference Khalida Shah have patched up.

“It’s a tough period for the family. But we are one family, we are not divided,” said a relative of the siblings.

The reconciliation happened after the siblings were detained in their homes after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

According to sources, Farooq and Khalida speak regularly on phone. Khalida’s son Muzaffar Shah also calls on his uncle. Farooq’s younger sister Suriya Mattoo and daughter Safiya Abdullah, who are his neighbours at Gupkar Road, frequently visit him and his son and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, detained at Hari Niwas.

According to sources, the family members often talk about the sufferings endured by their elders.

Safiya, according to sources, also visits Khalida at M.A. Road, here, every week.

The relation between Khalida and Farooq was at odds after her husband and Awami National Conference founder Ghulam Mohideen Shah toppled Farooq’s government in 1983 and became the Chief Minister with the support of some National Conference and Congress legislators.

The long detention also seems to have brought the two parties closer. The NC and the Awami National Conference would work together for the restoration of Article 370, said Muzaffar Shah. “Both are together for the cause. It’s a question of our future generations,” he said.

“We are all together in our struggle against revocation of Article 370,” he said.

Omar Abdullah’s photograph in which he is sporting a long beard that went viral on January 15 sparked a torrent of reactions on social media and from politicians across the country.

According to sources, Omar refused to shave beard as a mark of protest against the abrogation of Article 370. “He won’t shave beard till all detainees are released,” sources close to Omar said.

“After the photograph people suddenly remembered him. Imagine what his family has gone through all these months,” sources said.

Family members are allowed to meet the detained NC leaders for one hour thrice a week. Omar’s two sons have met him thrice since detention with latest meeting taking place in the last week of December.

Omar’s mother Molly flew to Kashmir in September from England to be with her husband. She has been managing the kitchen and also sends food to Omar at Hari Niwas.

According to family sources, the father-son duo is in high spirits.

Prolonged detention of Farooq and Omar has worried the family which had no inkling that the two would be detained for so long. “If we knew they will be detained for long we wouldn’t have been able to endure the pain,” said a relative.

Sources say Farooq has taken to religion in detention and often recites the Quran. “His age is also such when one tends to reflect on things,” sources said.

Suraya and Safiya were detained in October for violation of section 144 along with a group of women. They were released after they signed a bond and deposited Rs 10,000 each.

“This is the toughest thing we have seen in the life. But you have to be together, you have to be strong. That’s what we have done,” said a relative of Omar.

 

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