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Srinagar, March 15, 2020
In his first official statement after being released from seven months of detention on Friday, former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah on Sunday underlined the importance of free exchange of ideas and urged all political leaders here to unite to demand bringing back all J&K detainees from outside J&K, pending their release.
"I have consciously avoided making any political statements since I was released from detention on the 13th of March. While I believe a free and frank exchange of political views is essential so that we can take stock of the momentous changes that J&K has seen after 5th August 2019, 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," said Abdullah.
"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. For families of most of the detainees meeting their loved ones is not nearly as 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 sums of money they can ill-afford travelling to and staying in the vicinity of these prisons," he said.
The already onerous financial burden is made worse by the health risk they now face because of COVID-19. 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 in the statement.
"Before we allow politics to divide us, I appeal to all political leaders here to unite behind the call to the Union government to bring back all detainees from J&K in prisons outside pending their release. This is a humanitarian demand and I hope others will join me in placing this demand in front of the government of India," said the former CM and ex-Union Minister.