NC president Farooq Abdullah on Sunday asked all political parties of Jammu and Kashmir to jointly appeal to the Centre to bring back all detainees lodged outside the union territory on “humanitarian” grounds.
In his first statement after being released on Friday, the 82-year-old leader said he has been consciously avoiding making any political statements since he was released from detention.
He was initially taken under preventive custody and later slapped with the Public Safety Act on September 15, which was subsequently extended on December 13 and March 11.
Abdullah said while he advocated for a “free and frank exchange” of political views in order to take stock of the “momentous changes” that Jammu and Kashmir has seen since August 5 last year, “we are still some way away from an environment where such political discourse will be possible. This is especially so considering the number of people detained in August last year who remain in jails outside J-K”.
He said 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 union territory pending their release”.
“While we would like to see them all released as soon as possible, pending that they should be shifted to J-K. This is a humanitarian demand and I hope others will join me in placing this demand in front of the government of India,” the former chief minister said.
The veteran politician, who had gone to meet his son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday, said, “I am acutely aware that compared to hundreds of Kashmiri families I have been far more fortunate.”
“I was detained at home and my family had access to me. 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 said.
Abdullah said, however, for the families of most of the detainees meeting their loved ones is not so easy.
“Their loved ones have been detained in jails spread across a number of states. They get two visits a month for which they have to spend large amounts of money they can ill afford travelling to and staying in the vicinity of these prisons,” the National Conference chief, whose PSA was revoked by the JK administration on Friday after being detained for 221 days, said.
Abdullah said the already onerous financial burden is made worse by the health risk they now face because of novel coronavirus.
“At a time when people are being advised not to travel, 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 said.