Former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah , who was released on Tuesday from a Srinagar sub-jail after 232 days, demanded the release of other detainees in Jammu and Kashmir and called for a joint fight against COVID-19.
“We face the fight of our lives over the next few weeks and months as we come to terms and work to defeat COVID-19. I will do everything in my individual capacity to help the authorities overcome this challenge and I appeal to all of you to do the same,” he said.
Mr. Abdullah was detained on August 5 last ahead of the Centre's decision to revoke J&K’s special status and later booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and kept in the Hari Niwas sub-jail. Earlier on Tuesday, J&K spokesman Rohit Kansal announced that Mr. Abdullah's detention order was revoked.
Sporting a long flowing white beard, Mr. Abdullah, who turned 50 in the jail on March 10, called for the release of other detained persons. “There is a lot to talk about. It’s a very different world today to the one that existed on 5th August 2019. J&K is now two Union Territories (UTs). But that is later. For now, I believe all those arrested or detained should be released, even those who don’t even belong to any party. High-speed 4G Internet services must be restored forthwith so that people can access sites and learn how to fight the COVID-19,” he said.
Later, Mr. Abdullah posted pictures of reunion with his family, including mother and father Dr. Farooq Abdullah , on the social media. “I had lunch with my mum and dad for the first time in almost eight 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 said.
Political parties welcome decision
Several political parties welcomed the decision. “I am glad he is released. For all their talk of women emancipation, it seems this regime fears women the most," said Iltija Mufti, daughter of incarcerated ex-Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti.
CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said Mr. Abdullah’s release was a step to correct one wrong among many wrongs. “The government should release all, including PDP's Mufti and J&K People's Movement chief Dr. Shah Faesal,” he said.
Recently floated J&K Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari welcomed Mr. Abdullah’s release, saying: “it will help in creating conducive political atmosphere.”
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra expressed satisfaction over his release. “So happy to learn that Omar Abdullah’s unconstitutional and undemocratic detention has been revoked at last. It’s about time the Union government restores democratic and constitutional rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as well,” she said in a tweet.
Separatist Hurriyat Conference, headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, also demanded the release of detainees.
“JKLF chief Yasin Malik’s wellbeing is the responsibility of the Government of India. It should ensure that nothing untoward happens to him in jail. All Kashmiri political leadership, including Hurriyat leaders, should be released, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a Hurriyat spokesman.