Dr Farooq Released, Says ‘Can’t Believe I’m Free’

Dr. Farooq Abdullah met media persons after his release from house arrest. Here he can be seen with his wife and daughter. KO Photo: Abid Bhat

SRINAGAR – Government on Friday released National Conference patron and MP Dr Farooq Abdullah after seven month long house detention and revoked the Public Safety Act slapped against him in the month of September.

Speaking to reporters, the former Chief Minister said: “I can’t believe I’m free. I hope everybody else is released too”.

“I am grateful to the people of the state and country who spoke for my freedom. I would like to thank everyone and every individual who prayed for my freedom.”

“This freedom will be complete only when all the other detained leaders – including Omar and Mehboobaji are released,” he added.

“I will attend Parliament if allowed. And once I am there, I will raise the problems being faced by the people of Kashmir,” he said.

According to reports, a five-time J&K Chief Minister can take part in parliament session from March 16 onwards.

In an order earlier, state Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra said the PSA invoked on Abdullah on September 17 and further extended on December 13, has been revoked. The order comes into force with immediate effect.

“My father is a free man again,” tweeted Abdullah’s daughter Safia Abdullah Khan.

Farooq Abdullah had been under house arrested since August 5, 2019, the day New Delhi scrapped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and bifurcated the state into two union territories — Jammu and Ladakh.

Dr Abdullah was the first pro-India politician from the Kashmir Valley to be booked under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) that enables the State to detain any person in Jammu and Kashmir for up to two years without a trial or charge, merely on the assumption that they are a threat to law and order and public safety. The detaining authority is also not required to reveal any facts “which it considers being against the public interest to disclose” regarding the detention.

The PSA 1978 of Jammu & Kashmir was first slapped against the Srinagar MP on 17 September, hours before the Supreme Court was to hear a petition by MDMK leader Vaiko who claimed that the National Conference leader was detained illegally. Incidentally, the law was brought in by the MP’s father Sheikh Abdullah, the then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, ostensibly to stop timber smuggling.

However, the law earned notoriety over the years as it was repeatedly employed against political opponents by consecutive governments, including those headed by Dr Abdullah.

After the emergence of militancy, the Jammu and Kashmir government frequently invoked the PSA to crack down on Hurriyat leaders and activists.

The 82-year-old Abdullah has a heart pacemaker implanted and had undergone a kidney transplant a few years ago. His Gupkar Road house was declared a sub-jail by the Union Territory’s Home Department.

National Conference leader Davinder Singh Rana welcomed the Centre’s decision, ANI reported. “Imposing Public Safety Act on Farooq Abdullah was a wrong decision,” he told reporters. “I welcome the decision to revoke it. All other political detainees should also be released so that the voice of Jammu and Kashmir can reach everywhere.”

The National Conference said in a statement that Abdullah’s release will be a right step for the restoration of a genuine political process in Jammu and Kashmir, PTI reported. As the pre-eminent political party of Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference has played a key role in strengthening the voice of the people through democracy and will continue to do so,” the statement added.

The party said the political process will receive a further fillip when party vice president Omar Abdullah and other political detainees are set free, and urged the Centre to do so as soon as possible.

Booked under the PSA, Omar Abdullah has been under detention for the past seven months at Srinagar’s Hari Nivas, where he recently celebrated his 50th birthday.

According to PTI, the PSA dossier and grounds for his detention served on him late on February 6 last month accused him of having ‘considerable influence’ over people including ability to get voters during poll boycott calls and potential for diverting energies of public for any cause.

The Supreme court is hearing a petition of Sara Pilot challenging her brothers detention under the PSA.

Offers Prayers At Father’s Grave

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah visited his father Sheikh Abdullah’s grave, located on the banks of the Dal Lake at Hazratbal here, shortly after being released from his 221-day detention on Friday.

Accompanied by his wife Moile, grandson Adeem and other members of the family, Abdullah offered prayers at the grave of his father.

Dressed in a black kurta, a traditional ‘Karakuli’ cap and dark sunglasses because of a recent eye surgery, Abdullah spent some time at the grave.

He could not offer prayers on his father’s death anniversary on December 5 last year as he was in detention under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA).

Talking to reporters at his residence earlier on Friday after the PSA slapped on him was revoked by the Jammu and Kashmir administration, Abdullah said, “I am grateful to every one who prayed for us but this freedom is not complete.

“Freedom will be complete when all leaders Omar, Mehbooba ji and all the others who are in prisons of the state or outside the state are released. I hope government will take action soon to release every one…,” he said.

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