SRINAGAR: Kashmir’s mainstream leaders including former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, detained a day before the state was stripped of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and split into two Union Territories on August 5, have been allowed to meet their kin.
Mr Abdullah, who is the Vice-president of the National Conference (NC), was seen by his sister Safia and her children at the Hari Niwas government guesthouse, located less than half a kilometre from his residence along Srinagar’s Gupkar Road.
This was their second meeting in the past week, official sources said. Mr Abdullah’s aunt (father’s sister) Surraya Mattoo and some close relatives are known to have met him briefly. It is reported that Mr Abdullah, 49, has grown a beard.
Ms Safia is reported to have been allowed to meet also her father Dr Farooq Abdullah. She had been earlier placed under house arrest at her Gupkar Road home next to that of Dr Abdullah. She had, however, spoken to her brother over the phone on Bakrid on August 12. She had moved a court here against the authorities imposing curbs on her and her family’s movement, asking why despite being non-political persons they were being treated in such a fashion.
Ms Safia and Ms Mattoo had earlier this week repeatedly visited Srinagar deputy commissioner Shahid Chaudhary’s office to seek permission to visit Mr Abdullah.
Ms Mehbooba Mufti’s mother Gulshan Ara and sister Rubaya Sayeed were allowed to meet her at a tourism cottage in Chashmashahi on the foothills of Zabarwan on Thursday.
The family members of dozens of other mainstream leaders including former ministers and lawmakers of the National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, the Congress, the People’s Conference, J&K Peoples’ Movement and others have been allowed to meet them. Most of them are lodged in Centaur Lakeview Hotel in Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre on the banks of Dal Lake here.
However, Dr Farooq Abullah, a three-time Chief Minister and NC president, continues to be under house arrest and his repeated requests to meet his son have been rejected by the authorities. He has no access to phone, a report said. The authorities had two weeks ago restored landline telephone services from Srinagar’s main BSNL exchange but withdrew them again within a couple of hours. It is learnt that during this reprieve, the senior Abdullah made a few phone calls including one to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
His son and Ms Mufti do not have access to phone or even to TV news channels or newspapers. They have been provided with a DVD player each to watch movies, a media report said.
This hotel was declared a ‘subsidiary jail’ by the J&K home department on August 23. The deputy superintendent of police (security) Kashmir, designated as its superintendent was asked to regulate under statutory provisions of the relevant law meetings between the detainees and their relatives and friends “once or twice or oftener” and also provide other necessary facilities to them under jail manual.
J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik has justified the detention of mainstream leaders, saying that there was apprehension that their utterances could disturb peace in the Valley. “Even if she (Mufti) or Omar Abdullah march with twenty to fifty people and threaten to burn Raj Bhawan, we will be forced to open fire,” he said in a newspaper interview.
He said that Mufti has been lodged in a beautiful cottage where he too wishes to stay....