The United States on Wednesday welcomed the release of former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, and urged the government to release the political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir who are still in detention. It also urged the government to restore internet services in the region amid intensifying measures to combat coronavirus.
“We welcome the release of former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Dr Farooq Abdullah,” Acting Assistant US Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells said in a statement. “We encourage the release of all Kashmiri political leaders and the full restoration of internet services as the coronavirus fight intensifies.”
Omar Abdullah was released on Tuesday after more than seven months in detention. After his release, the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister said he would speak about political matters later, as the first challenge was to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. He also demanded the release of Mehbooba Mufti and other political leaders still in detention. Omar Abdullah’s father Farooq Abdullah was released on March 13 after seven months of house arrest. He had refused to speak about political matters till other detenues are also freed. There has been speculation that Mufti may also be released soon.
The Abdullahs, Mufti and several other politicians have been under detention 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 three leaders were also booked under the stringent Public Safety Act, which allows a person to be detained without a trial for three to six months.
US had repeatedly urged India to lift the communication blockade in Jammu and Kashmir and free the detained political leaders. Kenneth Juster, the US ambassador to India, had been a part of the delegation of 16 foreign envoys that that visited Kashmir in January to assess the situation amid lockdown.