IN his first formal interview following the withdrawal of Article 370, the National Conference chief Dr Farooq Abdullah has called for restoration of the constitutional provision that granted J&K its autonomous position within Indian Union. Abdullah termed the changes to the law as “betrayal of the trust”. His party, he added, looked for justice from the highest court of the land because of its faith in the judiciary. Similarly, in an opinion piece in a national newspaper, Omar Abdullah termed the downgrading of J&K into a Union Territory as a humiliation. He wrote he will not contest election till statehood was restored to J&K.
This is for the first time since the revocation of Article 370 in August last that Abdullahs have spoken so forcefully against the move and sought its reversal. And in so doing they have signalled a tentative resumption of the stalled politics in the region. This is significant as over the past year, all kinds of politics has come to a stop in Kashmir, something that has engendered a deep sense of political disempowerment among people. This feeling was only deepened when Abdullah and Omar, two former Chief Ministers largely maintained silence since their release in March following months-long detention.
Following his release on March 24, Omar had said he would not talk about Article 370 till the time the “life and death” war against coronavirus was not won. But after Centre issued new domicile law which more or less opens up Kashmir for settlement by outsiders, Omar’s continued silence came in for sharp public criticism.
Ditto for other released leaders. They too 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 and affirmed their commitment to protest democratically, 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.
As things stand, many leaders like Sajjad Gani Lone, Shah Faesal and others who were supposed to have been released have only been moved to their residences without a permission to hold any political activity. A year after August 5 move, it is time that the government removes bar on the movement and activity of every leader in the region.
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