India frees Farooq Abdullah after months of detention

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Farooq Abdullah, a lawmaker and leader of National Conference, speaks to media after his release at his residence in Srinagar March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

SRINAGAR, India, (Reuters) – Indian authorities on Friday ordered the release of Kashmir’s most prominent politician, Farooq Abdullah, one of dozens of leaders held since August, when the federal government withdrew the troubled region’s autonomy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said at the time that ending Kashmir’s special status was necessary for closer integration of the Muslim majority territory into the rest of India.

The government imposed a communication blackout with mobiles phones, internet links and landlines down and the detentions of scores of people including Abdullah to prevent large scale protests from erupting over the loss of autonomy for Kashmir.

The federal government said those measures were necessary to stop separatists and militants from stirring trouble. The government did not offer any reason on Friday for Abdullah’s release when it made the announcement.

Abdullah, a former chief minister, told reporters he was happy to be free, but there were many others still under detention including his son and also a former chief minister Omar.

“But this freedom is not complete; the freedom will be complete when all the leaders …. who are in either prisons in the state or outside the state, on in … hostels or in various buildings where they have been put under house arrest,” he told reporters in main city Srinagar.

Abdullah said a window had opened with his release.

“I hope that the government of India takes action soon to release everyone if they want that the people of the state should have freedom to live as free people,” he said.

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