Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Thursday tweeted a letter sent to him by fellow parliamentarian and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah from custody in Srinagar. Sharing the brief letter, Tharoor said members should be allowed to attend Parliament, else the “tool of arrest” could be used to muzzle voices in the Opposition.

Abdullah, a National Conference leader, was placed under house arrest on August 5, and has not been able to attend Parliament since then – the last few days of the Monsoon Session, and the ongoing Winter Session. His letter to Tharoor was apparently a reply to a letter dated October 21, which was delivered on December 2.

“Thank you for your letter on 21st October 2019 which has been delivered to me today by my magistrate who looks after me while I am in the sub-jail,” Abdullah wrote. “It is most unfortunate that they are not able to deliver me my post in time. I am sure this is not the way to treat a senior Member of the Parliament and leader of a political party. We are not criminals.”

Sharing the letter, Tharoor wrote: “Members of Parliament should be allowed to attend the session as a matter of parliamentary privilege. Otherwise the tool of arrest can be used to muzzle opposition voices. Participation in Parliament is essential [for] democracy [and] popular sovereignty.”

In Parliament on Wednesday, the Ministry of Home Affairs refused to provide any timeline for the release of political detenues in Jammu and Kashmir. Three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti – are among those held by authorities in Jammu and Kashmir. The Public Safety Act was invoked against Farooq Abdullah on September 17, and he remains confined to his home. Omar Abdullah and Mufti are held in different parts of Srinagar.

The Centre has repeatedly claimed the leaders were under detention as a precautionary measure.