Some uncorrected mistakes often take on a life of their own, growing into big blunders that trigger tragedies. The detention of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah is one such multi-dimensional embarrassment which is growing by the day. The continued incarceration of this three-time chief minister, former union minister and India’s mascot against Pakistani propaganda at the UN convention in Geneva in 1994 is an embarrassment of gargantuan proportions for the Indian democracy and its diplomats all over the world.
Now, all that Pakistan needs to do is to point at Farooq’s continuing custody to punch holes in India’s democratic credentials and its position on Islamist secessionist terrorism in the Valley. India never had a bigger champion for its cause than Farooq and his son Omar Abdullah, and if they are not free, it will be difficult for the Government of India to claim normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir. It is in this context that the government should respond to the demand of the united Opposition to free the Abdullahs at the earliest. The Congress party’s floor leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, raised this issue on Monday, pointing out the illegality of the preventive detention of Farooq. Though there is still confusion over the date of his detention, he has been in police custody since August 5, when Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated.
Thereafter, the abrogation was debated in the Lok Sabha without its member from Srinagar — Farooq. Now, another session of Parliament has begun and the MP from Srinagar is still missing. The Centre, unfortunately, seems to be oblivious of the fact that the more it keeps Farooq in custody, the more it is adding credence to the anti-India propaganda of muzzling of democracy and dissent in the Valley. Let the Abdullahs and the Muftis be freed and let them organise protest marches if they want. After all, the best sign of normalcy is a protest march and not a barricaded, empty street. Only Kashmiri Muslim democrats can legitimise India’s genuine claim over the Valley, and hence, India needs the Abdullahs and the Muftis.