A delegation of leaders from the National Conference’s Jammu unit met the party’s President Farooq Abdullah and his wife Molly Abdullah at their home in Srinagar, ANI reported. The 15-member delegation also met their son and party vice president Omar Abdullah at a government guest house.
The Abdullahs have been under detention in Srinagar since the state lost its special constitutional status in August. Farooq Abdullah has been charged under the “public order” section of the Public Safety Act, which allows authorities to detain a person for six months without trial.
The party’s Jammu provincial president Devender Rana, who led the delegation, told reporters after meeting the Abdullahs: “We are happy that they are both well and in high spirits, of course they are pained and anguished by the developments in the state. If the political process has to start, then mainstream leaders have to be released.” Rana said those political detenues who have no criminal record should be released.
Rana said all former legislators of the National Conference belonging to the Jammu division met Omar Abdullah first and Farooq Abdullah later. Farooq Abdullah flashed a victory sign to camerapersons as he posed with the delegation.
“So far as the National Conference is concerned, it has a legacy, it has a history, a chequered track record,” Rana said. “And the National Conference will continue to strive for the welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
“We had come to ask about their well-being,” senior National Conference leaders Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi told NDTV after the meeting. “No politics was discussed.” However, the two leaders said the party will not take part in the Block Development Council elections, which will be held on October 24 – because “the entire leadership is in jail”.
On Saturday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration had granted permission to the delegation to meet the former chief ministers. “The delegation led by provincial president Devender Singh Rana and comprising former party legislators will fly from Jammu tomorrow morning,” National Conference Spokesperson Madan Mantoo had said on Saturday.
Rana had sought permission from Governor Satya Pal Malik for the meeting on Thursday.
The National Conference leaders in the region had convened a meeting at the Sher-e-Kashmir Bhavan, where they reiterated that dissent was the core of democracy, and expressed concern over the political situation in the state. The leaders had sought immediate release of all the politicians under detention, withdrawal of restrictions on free movement and expression, and called for “ensuring liberty by restoring democracy”.
An adviser to Governor Malik had on Thursday said that the political leaders detained in Kashmir will be released in a phased manner. A day earlier, the state administration had ended the house arrest of all politicians in Jammu. The release came days after the state Election Commission announced elections to block development councils.
On Monday, Bharatiya Janata Party General Secretary Ram Madhav had said “only 200 to 250 people” were still in preventive detention in the state. He claimed these leaders were living “in five-star guest houses, some in five-star hotels”.
According to some estimates, almost 400 top politicians in the state were detained following the Centre’s crackdown. Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Kashmiri bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal were also taken into custody or put under house arrest.
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