National Conference chief and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Sunday urged all political leaders to make a joint statement to the Centre to bring back the detenues to the erstwhile state. Abdullah’s statement came days after he was released on Friday, following seven months of house arrest.

“Before we allow politics to divide us, I appeal to all political leaders in the state to unite behind the call to the Union government to bring back all detainees from Jammu and Kashmir from prisons outside the state pending their release,” he said. “While we would like to see them all released as soon as possible, pending that they should be shifted to Jammu and Kashmir. This is a humanitarian demand and I hope others will join me in placing this demand in front of the government of India.”

The National Conference chief said it was essential to exchange “free and frank” political opinions to review the changes that the erstwhile state has gone through after the Centre’s decision to revoke its special status. He added that political leaders were still “away from an environment where such political discourse will be possible”.

Abdullah, who met his son and detained politician Omar Abdullah on Saturday, said he was well-aware of being more fortunate than hundreds of Kashmiri families. “I was detained at home and my family had access to me,” he said. “Yesterday, when I went to meet my son Omar, also detained under the Public Safety Act, I had to travel a kilometre from my home to be able to see him.”

He noted that those detained in prisons across the country get to meet their family twice a month, and have to spend a lot of money if they can afford to travel or stay near the jails. “At a time when people are being advised not to travel [due to coronavirus], these families are being forced to put their lives at risk in order to meet their loved ones for a few short but very precious hours,” he added.

Farooq Abdullah had been under house arrest since India scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5 last year and imposed prohibitory orders. The former chief minister was also booked under the Public Safety Act, which allows a person to be detained without a trial for three to six months, on September 17. It was extended by three months in December. Farooq Abdullah was detained at his residence in Gupkar Road in Srinagar.

His son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti, both former chief ministers too, continue to be detained under the Public Safety Act along with several other politicians.

Several people from Jammu and Kashmir continue to be lodged in prisons across the country. In December, 65-year-old Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, a member of the banned Jamaat-i-Islami Jammu and Kashmir, died in an Allahabad jail after suffering from various ailments. In October, had reported that minors aged 14 and 16 were being held under the PSA in Uttar Pradesh jails.

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  1. A 65-year-old Kashmiri was detained and shifted to a UP jail after August 5. He never made it back
  2. In Kashmir, boys aged 14 and 16 held under dreaded Public Safety Act and sent to Uttar Pradesh jails