Srinagar – Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah was on Tuesday freed after eight months in detention after the administration revoked the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) against him.
A swarm of media personnel and supporters, many of them in masks, waited for him outside his residence after he was released.
The National Conference leader, who turned 50 on March 10, has been under detention since August 5, when the Centre announced the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and its bifurcation into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
The order revoking the PSA against him was issued by Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra. Abdullah was booked under the stringent act on February 5, hours before his six-month custody under preventive detention was to end.
The government has revoked his detention with immediate effect, the order stated.
Abdullah’s mother was the first to arrive at the makeshift detention centre after news came in that her son was about to be released. He was kept at the state guesthouse Hari Nivas, just a few hundred metres from his official residence.
On February 10, Omar’s sister moved the top Court challenging his detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
The Supreme Court last week asked the centre to respond by this week whether it planned to free him.
“If you are releasing him, then release him soon or we will hear the matter on merits,” the Supreme Court told the government.
“Now that things are settled in Kashmir, what are your instructions for his (Omar Abdullah’s) release,” the judges asked.
On March 13, Omar Abdullah’s father Farooq Abdullah, also a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was freed.
Omar Abdullah was detained without charges but later, the government charged him the Public Safety Act (PSA). The charges listed out in a dossier against the 49-year-old National Conference leader included his “ability to garner votes even during peak militancy and poll boycotts”. It said Mr Abdullah, a former Union Minister, could influence people for any cause and specifically cited his ability to bring voters out in the wake of boycott calls by separatists.
Omar Calls For Release Of Prisoners, Restoration Of High-Speed Net
Soon after his release from nearly eight months of detention, National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah on Tuesday called for the release of all detained people within and outside Jammu and Kashmir and appealed for the restoration of high-speed mobile internet services.
“The politics and situation of this state, what happened on August 5 (last year), I will talk about it in detail, but first, let us get rid of coronavirus, save ourselves and our families and friends. And then all those detained, be it within the state or outside it, I want the Centre to have mercy on them, bring them home and release them,” Omar told reporters outside his residence.
He said all the detained leaders, including PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, should be released in view of the situation arising out of the coronavirus scare.
“Be it Mehbooba Mufti or my NC colleagues, or leaders from PDP or from any other party. Some do not belong to any party, but are in detention since August (last year). In these difficult times, they should be brought back to their families,” he said.
Omar said people faced many hardships after the August 5, 2019 decisions of the Centre, but the time was not ripe to talk about them as the people were fighting the war of life and death.
“The hardships that the people faced. Our children couldn’t go to schools for many months, shopkeepers didn’t have an earning for months. People associated with hotels, taxis, houseboat, shikara and factories had to face difficulties. I was detained at one place, but the difficulties the people here faced, they were kept at their homes, I had thought that I will talk a lot about it, but today I realise that we are fighting a huge war the war of life and death.
“Unfortunately, we have gathered here against the government’s directions. We were told that social distancing should be followed, that we should take precautions to contain the spread of this disease. However, what lesson will we give to the people when we ourselves are not ready to follow it,” he said.
He said people must follow the government orders of social distancing and precautions to fight coronavirus.
“Be it Article 370 or 35A or UT or bifurcation of the state, I will talk to you in detail once the current situation passes,” he added.
However, Omar appealed to the Centre to lift restrictions on the high-speed mobile internet in the Union Territory.
“I humbly appeal the Centre to lift the restrictions on the communication. If nothing, at least 3G/4G be restored. We are told to take lessons on awareness about coronavirus from the internet, but what to do when nothing opens (because of low speed),” he said.
Omar took to Twitter and posted a picture of himself sporting long pepper beard.
“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 wrote.
“Had lunch with my mum and dad for the first time in almost 8 months. I can’t remember a better meal even though I’ve been in a bit of a daze and don’t remember what I ate, ” he wrote in another tweet.
It’s a very different world, first task to fight coronavirus: Omar Abdullah
It’s a very different world, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Tuesday after being released from nearly eight months in detention, adding that the first task was to fight COVID-19 and any discussion on political developments could come later.
Abdullah, sporting a long, unkempt grey beard, drove himself to his parents’ home after walking out of the makeshift detention centre Hari Nivas, a state guesthouse. His mother Molly and sister Safia were with him.
Abdullah said, “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.”
It was his first tweet since August 5 last year, when he was detained following the government revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcating the state into two union territories.
His first step after release was visiting his parents’ home his father Farooq Abdullah was released on March 13 — where he had lunch with the family.
“Had lunch with my mum and dad for the first time in almost 8 months. I can’t remember a better meal even though I’ve been in a bit of a daze and don’t remember what I ate,” he tweeted.
Abdullah, who was released after the administration revoked the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) against him, also spoke to reporters, saying they were violating orders on social distancing by coming to meet him and this was a time to take precautions.
“During my period of detention, I thought a lot about what I would say the moment I come out what I would say about what happened on August 5 last year, what would I would say about Jammu and Kashmir as a state that was broken up into two union territories, what I would say about the change in the status of J-K, and about the hardships the people faced,” Abdullah said outside his residence.
“But today, let’s not be complacent towards the challenges being faced the world over. This is a fight between life and death. All of you have come here and it is definitely in violation of the government order.
“We should ensure social distancing and take adequate precautions. We should ensure that the coronavirus does not spread. I will talk about political developments and other aspects post August 5 but let us first fight this coronavirus,” he said.
Abdullah requested the Centre to release others detained, including PDP leader and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.