India frees Kashmir politician after seven months

By Shah Abbas

Srinagar, India, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- India on Friday freed a senior Kashmiri politician, who was arrested with several other leaders in August last year to prevent possible unrest against the government’s controversial decision to strip the region of its semi-autonomous status.

“I don’t have words, the way I feel today, I am free. I am free,” Abdullah, 82, told reporters, speaking from the lawns of his house soon after the government revoked his detention orders.

“I hope my people will be free. I hope the people of this state will be free and let us pray to god that we will see true freedom which we have been (fighting) for a long time. God bless you all and god bless this state.”

Flanked by his wife, Molly, and daughter Safia, the doctor-turned-politician refused to take questions or speak politics till all the arrested Kashmiri politicians are freed from different jails in India.

“I will answer no questions nor speak on any political matter until everyone is released. It is only when they will be released that I will be able to tell you on the political matters.”

Abdullah, a member of Indian parliament and three-time Kashmir chief minister, was arrested on Aug.5.

His custody was later extended under the Public Safety Act that allows detention without trial for up to two years.

“In exercise of powers under …. the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, the government revokes the detention of Farooq Abdullah with immediate effect,” his release order said.

Abdullah’s home in upscale Gupkar Road neighborhood of Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, was converted into a jail for him.

Abdullah was among hundreds of politicians, including his 50-year old son Omar, who were placed under preventive custody to prevent any resistance against the government’s decision to write off a constitutional clause that gave the disputed region a partial legislative autonomy.

Former chief ministers Omar and Mehbooba Mufti, the region’s only women head of the government, remain in jail under the PSA.

Abdullah, one of the most popular pro-India politicians in Kashmir, heads the region’s oldest political party, the National Conference (NC).

Ironically, the law that allowed the government to detain Abdullah without trial for seven months was brought in by his father, Sheikh Abdullah, in 1978 when he was the chief minister of the region.

Farooq Abdullah used the law frequently against his political rivals, especially separatist politicians, to quell any dissent.

The government arrested thousands of men, including children, and sent tens of thousands of more troops to Kashmir to quell any possible unrest before the revocation of the autonomous status of the region, which is divided and disputed between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir was also put under a strict communication blockade for months. The internet restrictions were relaxed on Jan 25 and curbs on the use of social media were removed on Mar 4.

The authorities defended the restrictions, saying it was “necessary to protect the civilian lives and property”.

India’s junior Home Minister G. Kishan Reddy on Wednesday told the parliament that 7,357 persons were taken into custody in Kashmir after Aug 5 last year. Some 396 persons were slapped with the PSA. EFE-EPA


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