Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah was released on Tuesday after nearly eight months of detention. His release order was issued after charges under the Public Safety Act (PSA), slapped on him on February 5, were revoked.
Abdullah, who turned 50 on March 10, had spent 232 days in custody since the government announced abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state on August 5 last year. The National Conference leader was initially detained under preventive custody and later slapped with the PSA in February.
After walking out of the makeshift detention centre, Abdullah said Kashmiris are fighting “life and death.
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. pic.twitter.com/Y44MNwDlNz— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) March 24, 2020
“J&K as a state was broken down into two union terror territories. For months, people have faced hardships, children couldn’t go to school, shopkeepers couldn’t earn. Several sectors faced hardships. People were confined to their houses,” he said.
“I thought I would speak a lot about the situation, but today I realised we are fighting life and death. I would speak openly about what has done to us, our state,” he added.
Abdullah also demanded the release of other detainees, including PDP leader and ex-CM Mehbooba Mufti. “All those detained in state and outside should be released. I appeal to the government to end the communication gap. In these hard conditions, Mehbooba Mufti and all other political and non-political leaders should be released,” he said.
He was detained along with hundreds of politicians in August, when the Centre decided to effectively abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution special and divide the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.
The Supreme Court had last week, on Omar Abdullah's sister's petition seeking his immediate release, asked the Centre to respond by this week whether it planned to free him, or said that it would hear the plea against his detention under PSA “on merits”.
"Now that things are settled in Kashmir, what are your instructions for his (Omar Abdullah's) release," the court had asked.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration had also released Omar’s father, National Conference president and sitting MP Dr Farooq Abdullah, 82, by revoking his detention under the stringent PSA, on March 13.
Another former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, who still remains under detention, tweeted: "Glad he will be released. For all their talk of nari Shakti & women emancipation, seems like this regime fears women the most," in a reference to the petition filed by Sara Abdullah Pilot.
Omar Abdullah was on August 5 detained under Section 107 of CrPC (security for keeping the peace), and once he had served the maximum period of detention, was slapped with charges under PSA on February 5.
In its PSA dossier, the administration described him as a threat to public safety. It said he was “planning activities against the Union government”. It also highlighted “his popularity and potential to draw voters to polling booths”.
The grounds were challenged by Sara Pilot in a habeas corpus petition, who said there had been no effort by the authorities to verify the truth behind the “information” that Abdullah was a threat to peace. On the other hand, there were reams of material in the form of tweets and public statements vouching for his exemplary conduct to maintain peace, she told the apex court.