‘Where is Farooq’ opposition raises heat in Lok Sabha

farooq abdullah

Proceedings in Parliament got off to a stormy start today with a united Opposition in the Lok Sabha calling National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah’s detention illegal and asking Speaker Om Birla to intervene and ensure his immediate release so that he could attend the ongoing session.Hours before, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “We are open to discussions on all issues.” The Speaker allowed the matter to be taken up in the business advisory committee of the Lok Sabha.

On Monday, November 18, the first day of the winter session of Parliament, Farooq’s detention came up as soon as the House assembled. The Lok Sabha echoed to the question “Where is Farooq Abdullah?” on the first day of the winter session. The Opposition slammed the illegal detention of the veteran, 83 year old National Conference MP and former chief minister at his Srinagar home and demanded his immediate release so he could attend Parliament.

Opposition members demanded a statement from home minister Amit Shah, recalling how he had claimed in the House in the last session that Farooq had not been put under house arrest.

Farooq, 83, has been confined to his home since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked on August 5. In September, he was formally arrested under the Public Safety Act, which allows lengthy detention without trial. Two other former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — are in custody too as are dozens of senior mainstream politicians.

Abdullah, a member of the House from J&K, and a former chief minister of the erstwhile state, has been under detention since August 5 when special status under Article 370 was withdrawn. J&K has since been carved into Union Territory. Demanding Abdullah’s immediate release, Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said Home Minister Amit Shah had claimed in the House on August 5 that Abdullah had not been detained, whereas the J&K leader had been under detention since then — a total of 106 days.

Predictably, the Speaker clarified that India’s House of the People (Lok Sabha) had no information on Abdullah’s detention. Home minister, Amit Shah had been caught in a faux pas when he had first informed Parliament that Abdullah had not been detained! Thereafter, the speaker, Om Birla said, Parliamnet had been informed of his detention.

Opposition members later rushed to the well of the House, chanting: “Stop attacking the Opposition, release Farooq Abdullah.” Birla continued with Question Hour amid the sloganeering. He allowed the Opposition to raise Farooq’s detention during Zero Hour at noon.

Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from the Indian National Congress(INC) was scathing in his attack. He dubbed the visit of the European MPs who visited Kashmir, “hired workers” (kiraye ke tattu–rental horses or puppets).Opposition leaders were not allowed to visit while foreign MPs were welcomed he said; this is an insult not just to the Opposition but Parliament, too, Chowdhury added.

It was the duty of the Speaker –a non-partisan position in a Parliamentary Democracy to act, said DMK leader, TR Baalu in the Lok Sabha. “ What has happened with Farooq is illegal. The decision should be revoked by the Speaker.”

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), on August 20 this year, was among the first in the Opposition ranks to hold a protest at Jantar Mantar, Delhi on the August 22, against the move of the central government to abrogate the special status of J & K and for the detention of the political leaders of the state.

Professor Saugata Roy from the Trinmook Congress also asked the Speaker to actively intervene and get the 83-year old veteran politician released from detention.

The Shiv Sena, which has quit the ruling NDA, didn’t join the Opposition in protesting over Kashmir. Sena MPs had earlier walked out of the House in protest at the plight of Maharashtra’s farmers. The sitting arrangement for the Sena members was not changed in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

RSP member N.K. Premchandran refused to ask a supplementary question, saying: “Farooq Abdullah is not in the House. The House is not in order. I’m not in a position to ask any question.”None from the government side responded to the Opposition’s demand for Farooq’s release. Birla too remained silent to requests that he ask the government to allow Farooq to attend the House since the MP is not under judicial custody.



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