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Bereaved Omar’s plea for Covid protocol

PM Narendra Modi lauds social-distance appeal
Omar Abdullah

Muzaffar Raina   |   Srinagar   |   Published 30.03.20, 10:22 PM

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday called on people to maintain social-distancing norms and not visit his uncle’s home after the older man — a cancer patient — passed away, saying his family “appeals to everyone to respect” the Covid-19 guidelines.

Omar’s request, at a time the number of coronavirus cases has been rising in Jammu and Kashmir, earned him a rare praise from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Seven more people tested positive on Monday, taking the number of cases in the Union Territory to 45.

Dr Ali Mohammad Mattoo, husband of National Conference founder Sheikh Abdullah’s second daughter Suraiya Abdullah, died on Sunday evening after battling cancer for three years.

Omar urged people not to visit his uncle’s house to offer condolences. “My uncle Dr Mohd Ali Mattoo passed away earlier tonight after a brief illness. At this difficult time the family appeals to everyone to respect the guidelines to not gather either at his residence or the graveyard,” Omar tweeted on Sunday night. “Your prayers from your homes will give peace to his soul.”

Modi offered condolences and appreciated Omar’s gesture. “May his soul rest in peace. In this hour of grief, your call to avoid any large gathering is appreciable and will strengthen India’s fight against COVID-19,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

Omar thanked Modi, saying “his prayers for the departed soul are much appreciated”.

The hostility between Modi and Omar runs deep, more so after the Centre’s August 5 move to scrap key provisions of Article 370 that gave Kashmir its special status.

Omar was among thousands arrested during the clampdown that accompanied the decision. Mattoo and his wife too were put under house arrest during the initial weeks of the clampdown.

Omar was released earlier this month after over seven months in captivity. Soon after his release, he had said fighting the virus was his immediate priority. Family sources said only a few people, including Omar, joined Mattoo’s last journey on Monday.

Mattoo’s only daughter, Nyla Ali Khan, who teachers at Rose State College in the US, had also cautioned people against visiting their home.

“My parents have large families and several well-wishers. We are aware that all of you are with us in spirit. At this difficult time, we urge everyone to exercise caution and not feel compelled to be at my father’s funeral prayer ceremony tomorrow morning,” she said in a tweet on Sunday night.

Nyla said the government had granted permission for 20 persons to be at her father’s funeral.

Many people offered condolences through social media. 

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