A Welcome Step

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Soon after releasing Dr Farooq Abdullah, the J&K administration in a welcome move has released the son Omar Abdullah. Junior Abdullah walked out of the jail sporting a long beard that he has grown in jail, apparently as a mark of protest. Like his father earlier, Omar refused to talk about Article 370. He urged people to obey government orders on COVID-19 saying it was a war of life and death. He has also urged the government to release all other prisoners. Later in a tweet, Abdullah said he had been released into “a very different world” than the one that existed on 5th August 2019 when he was placed under detention.

However, government has yet to make up its mind about the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and many other leaders and activists. Similarly, the IAS officer turned politician Shah Faesal also remains in detention. Government had earlier shifted the People’s Conference leader Sajjad Gani Lone to his residence.

The  release of Abdullah and Omar reflects the growing confidence of the state government in the improvement of the situation in the erstwhile state. It sees the less likelihood of the situation tipping into turmoil now.  More so, in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 that has plunged the world into a deep crisis. Most of the world has lockdown to fight the spread of the disease. After his release, Omar has promised to play a role in the fight against the disease.

The arrest of top leaders had drawn severe international criticism. United States had time and again called for their release. But the government didn’t see their freedom in its interest – and does so even now – and apprehends it might disrupt peace in the Valley. It would be interesting to see how long more the government waits before it takes a call on the   release of rest of leaders.

So far the leaders who have been released have maintained silence on Article 370, lending some credence to the reports that they have made good behaviour promises to get their freedom. However, it is only when the senior leaders including Mehbooba are released that we can expect to get some sense of how they will respond to the altered state of affairs. But considering all these leaders have invariably called for peace in the Valley, the government should release them and let them put their point of view before the people. Not doing so, will only prolong the current uncertainty, no matter how normal the Valley might appear on the outside

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