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'Held Flag High in Worst Unrest': Farooq Abdullah's Arrest Shocks Kashmir, Raises Questions in Delhi
National Conference leaders and MPs termed the arrest of farooq Abdullah who has been a Union minister and three-time chief minister, as beyond shocking.
(Illustration by Mir Suhail)
Srinagar: Kashmir Valley residents and political activists expressed their shock after three-time former chief minister and incumbent Member of Parliament, Farooq Abdullah, who remains under detention since August 5, was booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows the authorities to detain an individual for up to two years without a trial.
“The biggest Indian in Kashmir has been slapped with PSA,” said Zahid Hussain, a resident of Rajbagh, Srinagar. “This is unbelievable and a new level of political development,” he added.
The 81-year old, patron of the major regional political party National Conference (NC), was under house-arrest since the night of August 4, a day before the government made Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution ineffective and divided the state into two union territories.
Arrested for being a threat to ‘public order’, Abdullah’s Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar, reports said, has been declared a jail through a government order and he will continue to be lodged there.
Most of the mainstream leaders, including Abdullah’s son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party president and ex-CM Mehbooba Mufti, have also been detained since August 5.
Party members termed this decision as beyond shocking. “The person arrested is someone who has been a Union minister in the Government of India, a very senior politician and one of the most prominent faces in the country,” said Imran Nabi Dar, a leader of the NC. “The authorities slapped PSA on him without any justification. This totalitarian decision is beyond shocking,” he added.
Dar termed the decision as a repressive measure. “What crime has he committed? For God’s sake, we need to know. Why are they taking such repressive measures?” he said, adding Abdullah is a “person who had held the country’s flag high during the worst turmoil.”
His detention under the PSA came hours before the Supreme Court asked the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir administration to respond to a plea that the former chief minister be produced before a court. The petition was filed by MDMK leader Vaiko, who sought Abdullah’s release so that he could attend an event in Chennai. Vaiko and Abdullah are said to be close friends for four decades.
The PSA is applicable only in Jammu and Kashmir. Elsewhere in the country, it is the National Security Act (NSA). Another leader of NC and south Kashmir MP, retired Justice Hasnain Masoodi, termed the decision as “beyond imagination.”
“He has been on the top of political horizon of the country for more than five decades. A politician, who has manned the post of Union minister, who has been the chief minister thrice and is an MP, can’t be put under arrest like this,” Masoodi told News18. “You consider this person as a threat to security is beyond imagination,” he said adding that “nobody can question his nationalism and his commitment towards the country.”
Masoodi said, at times, Abdullah had to face public wrath in Kashmir for being pro-India. Masoodi and another NC MP were given permission by the J&K High Court to meet Farooq and Omar Abdullah last week on the condition that they would not speak about the meet in the press.
Masoodi said the party is going to challenge the government’s decision. “I will sit with other leaders of the party and decide the line of action. We will question the order in the court of law,” Masoodi told News18.
As a retired judge, Masoodi is hopeful of a positive outcome in the court. “The court always finds the grounds of detention in these sorts of arrests. This is a detention without trial and charge. The liberty of a person cannot be interfered just for no reason,” Masoodi said.
These types of steps, Masoodi felt, could be counter-productive in the current situation. “Whatever steps have been taken in the past weeks have put up a huge question mark on the politics of the state. It has been a huge setback. Mainstream parties have nothing to project and market,” he said, adding, “The PSA on Abdullah will again send a negative message and widen the gulf.”
Politicians from other parts of the country also questioned the move. Condemning the detention, the Congress said injustice had been done and it's the country's "misfortune" that leaders who fought for its unity were behind bars. The party said it stood in solidarity with Abdullah and if there was "no militancy today" in the state, it was because of the Congress, National Conference and PDP, and not the BJP.
Congress Rajya Sabha MP and Leader of the Opposition in the House Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "I strongly condemn it. It is most unfortunate that a (former) chief minister of one of the oldest political parties in Kashmir (has been detained).
"Each chief minister and each political party, be it the Congress, NC or PDP, in Jammu and Kashmir have tried their level best to fight militancy. If there is no militancy today, it is because of these political parties and not the BJP," said Azad, who too has been a CM of the erstwhile state.
At a media briefing, party leader Rajiv Shukla termed Abdullah a nationalist and said injustice has been meted out towards him. "Farooq has always been a nationalist and you can see all his past speeches, be it in Parliament or outside. He was a minister in the Vajpayee government. "He has been in every government and using such a law for him is not appropriate. I don't think the government should have taken such a step while looking at his age and health," Shukla said.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi launched a scathing attack on the Centre for calling the situation in the Valley normal. “When a former chief minister is under arrest, what normalcy are you talking about?” said Owaisi, adding, “I condemn the use of PSA against Abdullah. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi a day before the abrogation of Article 370. How can he be a threat if he met the PM of the country?”
Calling it a sad state of affairs, he said, “How can an 80-year-old man be a threat to India? This shows there is no normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.”
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, “Abdullah has stood by India through thick and thin. Why has the PSA been imposed? This is a cowardly afterthought by the BJP government with no respect for either India or its Constitution.” He also called it a brazen attack on democratic rights and civil liberties.
The Home Minister, after lying in Parliament, now launches this brazen attack on democratic rights and civil liberties of a sitting MP, elected to the Indian Parliament and as a Chief Minister of J&K so many times. #FarooqAbdullah (1/2)— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) 16 September 2019
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