Farooq Abdullah finds ‘solace in faith’
Religion is the companion of flamboyant three-time chief minister Farooq Abdullah at his home-turned-jail in Srinagar.
Farooq, 83, says namaz five times a day and extensively reads from Abdullah Yousuf Ali’s translation of the Quran, which is keeping him in high spirits, the former chief minister’s youngest sister Suraiya Abdullah told The Telegraph at her Gupkar home on Thursday.
“He had a kidney transplant, a pacemaker implant and is diabetic but he is in good spirits. He hopes something good might come out for the Kashmiri nation from it (the present ordeal),” Suraiya said.
“Farooq Sahib reads the Quran and prays five times a day. He gets a lot of strength from it. He has also completed reading a book on Kashmir by Musa Raza, who was our chief secretary,” she added.
The National Conference president was placed under house arrest on the evening of August 4, hours before the Centre announced the decision to revoke the state’s special status.
On Monday, he was booked under the draconian Public Safety Act, which allows detention without trial for up to two years. He is the first top politician from the pro-India camp who has been booked under the law.
Sources said Farooq had taken to religion after his kidney transplant surgery some years back but he has stepped up his engagement with faith now — a dramatic shift for somebody who had a “happy-go-lucky image”.
Farooq’s son Omar was jailed last month at the Hari Nivas guesthouse.
Farooq’s sister Suraiya, who is his next-door neighbour, has been regularly visiting her brother and occasionally her nephew Omar after the August 5 decision. It is the first time any family member of the Abdullahs has come on record to reveal their condition.
Suraiya said while her brother was in good spirits, her nephew Omar was a little depressed at times.
“There is an age difference between the two and he (Farooq) has seen a lot of the world…. Besides, this is the first such experience for these kids (Omar and his sister Safiya). My generation and my father had experience of it but his (Sheikh’s) grandchildren had not.”
Safiya, Farooq’s elder daughter and the next-door neighbour to his left, was also under house arrest for around two weeks.
Suraiya confirmed what this newspaper had reported earlier: Omar has grown a beard in jail. She said it was not as a protest.
“He has nowhere to go and in a way, he is in solitary confinement. There is a lot of (security) paraphernalia, lot of SSG (Special Services Group, which was deputed to protect him in the past and now keeps a watch over him),” she said. “There are some women (from the police) there and if you enter (the jail premises), they frisk you.”
She said Omar had no one to talk to in jail and spends time reading, watching DVDs and working out. A TV was allotted to him only recently.
In the first seven weeks, Suraiya and Safiya were free to meet Farooq through their connecting doors but were not allowed to meet him for the longer part of the day after he was booked under PSA. She said a barbed wire was thrown outside the gate that day to prevent the family from visiting him.
Later in the afternoon, they were allowed to go in after Safiya protested.
The connecting door was sealed and guards were posted to prevent them from entering his house.
“After the PSA, some of us are allowed to go in through the main gate. Some other relatives would come and take connecting door to meet Farooq Sahib. They can no longer do it,” she said.
“He (Farooq) made me understand why they did it. He said (MDMK leader) Vaiko had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court after which they had to produce him in the Supreme Court. To stop that, they booked him under the PSA one day in advance.”
Farooq reads the Quran in the morning and sits on the lawns of his house for some hours daily. He has no access to newspapers and phone but cable TV is working where he mostly watches BBC and Al Jazeera. She said he avoided watching Indian news channels as they “lie a lot”.