Omar Abdullah released after nearly eight months in detention in Kashmir

Srinagar: Omar Abdullah, released on Tuesday after nearly eight months in detention in Kashmir, posted in his first tweet that it was “a very different world today” to the one that existed on August 5, when he was placed in detention. The former Chief Minister was detained along with hundreds of politicians in August, when the centre decided to end special status to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories.
“232 days after my detention today I finally left Hari Niwas. It’s a very different world today to the one that existed on 5th August 2019,” tweeted Omar Abdullah, who turned 50 on March 10. He was seen emerging from the Hari Niwas guest house near his official home in Srinagar, sporting a white beard and surrounded by people in masks on account of the coronavirus pandemic.
Abdullah had resolved not to shave until he was released as a mark of protest.
One of his first comments to the media was on coronavirus, which has infected close to 500 in India. He also appealed for the release of his political rival Mehbooba Mufti, another former Chief Minister, and other leaders detained on the same day.
“Today, I realise that we are fighting a war of life and death. All our people who have been detained should be released at this time. We must follow government orders to fight coronavirus,” the National Conference leader told reporters. He also offered “tips on surviving quarantine” in a tweet. “On a lighter note if anyone wants tips on surviving quarantine or a lock down I have months of experience at my disposal, perhaps a blog is in order,” he wrote.
Mehbooba Mufti, still in detention, had tweeted earlier: “Glad he will be released. For all their talk of nari Shakti & women emancipation, seems like this regime fears women the most.”
The Supreme Court had last week, on Omar Abdullah’s sister’s petition for his immediate release, asked the centre to respond by this week whether it planned to free him.
“If you are releasing him, then release him soon or we will hear the matter on merits,” the Supreme Court told the government.
“Now that things are settled in Kashmir, what are your instructions for his (Omar Abdullah’s) release,” the judges asked.
On March 13, Omar Abdullah’s father Farooq Abdullah, also a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, was freed.
Omar Abdullah, who turned 50 on March 10, was detained without charges but later, the government charged him the Public Safety Act (PSA). The charges listed out in a dossier against the 49-year-old National Conference leader included his “ability to garner votes even during peak militancy and poll boycotts”. It said Abdullah, a former Union Minister, could influence people for any cause and specifically cited his ability to bring voters out in the wake of boycott calls by separatists.
Abdullah’s sister Sara Abdullah Pilot, in her petition to the Supreme Court, said her brother had been detained on the basis of social media posts “that are non-existent have been wrongly, maliciously attributed to (Omar Abdullah)”.