From Omar Abdullah's 'silence' to Mehbooba Mufti's arrest: The J&K detention debate is on
- PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti has been under house arrest since August 5, 2019
- Omar Abdullah chose to not venture into debtate over Article 370
- Several political leaders were put under house arrest after abrogation of Article 370 in J&K
In the past week, two developments in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir made headlines: PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti's detention being extended by three months and People's Conference leader Sajjad Lone being released. The arrest of top political leaders of Kashmir has been the topic of many discussions since August 5, 2019, when the then state lost its special status and was bifurcated into two union territories. The debates and discussions have centered mostly around why a leader has been or has not been released.
Among the top leaders to be set free first were former Chief Ministers and National Conference (NC) leaders Farooq and Omar Abdullah. While Farooq Abdullah, 82, was released on March 13, his son Omar, 50, walked out of detention on March 24, 2020. All those waiting for a fiery response from Twitter-savy Omar to the abrogation of Article 370 and restrictions in the Valley were disappointed.
Among the first tweets he wrote was: "Had lunch with my mum and dad for the first time in almost 8 months. I can't remember a better meal even though I've been in a bit of a daze and don't remember what I ate."
Omar chose to not venture into the much-discussed Article 370 debate. An occasional demand for the release of partymen and a court case was all that came. He finally broke his silence on July 29 with his article in a national daily. This again resulted in more criticism and trouble within the party. The 'threat' that he will not contest polls till UT's statehood was restored was called an empty threat given that Home Minister Amit Shah, while introducing the Bill in Parliament, had clearly said that the statehood would be restored once normalcy is ensured.
His parytyman Aga Ruhullah quit in protest saying the party should not restrict itself to seeking restoration of statehood, but the fight should be about the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
In his defence Omar told a newspaper in an interview, “When people ask me why don’t you demand that 370 be restored? Arrey bhai kisse demand karun? Jinhone liya unhin se main umeed karun ki woh wapas de denge. (who should I demand it from, those very people wo took it from us?) Again then, that’s fooling people.”
But, the debate continued with Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Bhagel sniffing a 'deal' in the release of Abdullahs. “He and Mehbooba Muftiji were booked under the same sections of the law, while she is still languishing, he is out. Is it because Mr. Abdullah is brother-in-law of Sachin Pilot?” Baghel said in an interview to The Hindu. Bhagel was referring to former Rajasthan deputy CM Sachin Pilot rebelling against the Congress and walking out with 18 MLAs. The Congress alleged that the BJP was behind this bid to topple the Rajasthan government.
In a sharp reply, Abdullah tweeted, “I am fed up of the downright malicious and false allegation that what Sachin Pilot is doing is somehow linked to my or my father’s release from detention earlier this year..."
Omar Abdullah's stand on Article 370, many call it a climbdown, is in sharp contrast with that of Mehbooba Mufti's PDP, which has made it clear that their fight is for the restoration of Article 370, and not for statehood. In a veiled attack on the N), Mufti's daughter Iltija who tweets from her Twitter handle, said Article 370 can be restored only with political decision, not by courts. She was referring to the NC moving courts against the srapping of the special status.
Iltija has often spoken about the demand for restoration of the special status. “If political parties in Jammu and Kashmir don't fight for statehood, Article 370 and 35A, they will lose legitimacy,” she told a TV channel recently.
Mehbooba Mufti, 61, was arrested, along with Abdullahs, on August 5 last year, and was lodged under preventive detention for six months, she was booked under PSA in February this year and her detention was extended by three more months last week. Many analysts feel that PDP's strident stand was its leader's way of 'atoning' for teaming up with the BJP to form the government in the state after December 2014 Assembly elections. The alliance had not gone down too well with the electorate.
Among other mainline leaders in the state, Sajjad Lone of the People's Conference was released on July 31. He too, like Abdullahs, has chosen to stay mum so far on Article 370. “Finally, 5 days short of a year I have been officially informed that I am a free man. So much has changed. So have I. Jail was not a new experience. Earlier ones were harsh with usual doses of physical torture. But this was psychologically draining. Much to share hopefully soon (sic),” Sajjad tweeted.