Srinagar, Oct 6: The National Conference demanded release of mainstream leaders under preventive detention to start a political dialogue on Sunday—two months into a continuing clampdown imposed on the state.

A 15-member delegation that held Farooq and Omar Abdullah—the first time that National Conference leaders met the two since their detention in August—discussed developments in the state and upcoming local body polls during the separate meetings with the two leaders.

The delegation led by Jammu’s provincial chief of the party Devender Singh Rana met former chief Minister Omar Abdullah at Hari Niwas for little over 30 minutes.

Omar, who was sporting a beard, was seen clicking a selfie with party leaders.

The delegation then drove to Farooq Abdullah’s residence.

Emerging after the meeting, Rana told reporters that for any political process to begin, the leaders of the party need to be released.

There is “anguish about developments particularly about lockdown of the people and we, as a party, appeal that the political process to start and democracy to revive in Jammu and Kashmir political detenues anywhere and everywhere, whether from mainstream political parties or otherwise who have no criminal record, may be released to initiate the process and the hearts and minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir are won,” he said.

Rana said that Farooq and Omar “were in high spirits, but pained and anguished over the prevailing situation.”

While talking to the waiting media persons, Rana pitched for immediate release of political leaders of all mainstream parties to restore the democratic process in theState.

When asked about the future political strategy of the party, Rana said that as and when the detained party leaders are released the Working Committee, which is the apex body of the party, will sit and have a detailed review of the situation and developments taking place and decide political roadmap for the party.

To a question by a reporter on the proposed elections to Block Development Councils, Rana quipped: “How can we even think on these lines at this juncture as the party leadership is under detention. Elections are contested by adopting a process, which entails selection, consideration and nomination of candidates. This is not possible in the prevailing situation when the party leaders from the State President down below to Block Presidents are under detention in the Kashmir valley.”

He said the BDC polls are being fought in 316 blocks and if any political party has to contest these elections it is required that 316 Blocks are politically functional.

The NC leader said the party’s working committee would decide on the future course of action whenever the party leaders including the NC president and vice-president would be released.

“Let them be released, then the working committee of the party will meet and discuss and then we will formulate a strategy for the future,” Rana said when questioned about the party’s future strategy.

Farooq has been detained at his residence, while his son Omar has been kept at a state guest house, Hari Niwas.  

Jammu’s NC leaders were recently given permission to meet the Abdullahs. While National Conference leaders from Jammu were released from house arrest last week, several in Srinagar are still in detention, which came as part of a clampdown that followed the central government’s reading down of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5.

Several mainstream political leaders, besides the Abdullahs, are still under preventive detention after the clampdown, which is now two months old. 

The central government not only read down two controversial provisions that gave special status to the state—Article 370 and 35-A—on August 5, but also split the state into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.  The state went into lockdown mode just before the development—restrictions were imposed, communication lines were cut off and several mainstream leaders were put under preventive detention.

The state also invoked the draconian Public Safety Act against Farooq last month—a development that drew condemnation from several critics of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

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