‘Where is Farooq’ cry in Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha reverberated to the question “Where is Farooq Abdullah?” on the first day of the winter session.
The Opposition slammed the “illegal” detention of the 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Farooq, 82, has been confined to his home since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked on August 5.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.
Shah was not present in the House but Speaker Om Birla defended him saying the home minister was right when he told Parliament in August that Farooq was not under detention.
Birla said it was only later that written information of Farooq’s detention had reached the Lok Sabha secretariat.
To the Opposition’s questions soon after the government had announced its Kashmir decisions, Shah had said that Farooq was refraining from coming to the House of his own free will.
“If he doesn’t want to come he can’t be brought at gunpoint,” Shah had said, prompting protests.
On Monday, Farooq’s detention came up as soon as the House assembled. After the customary playing of the national anthem, Saugata Roy of Trinamul said: “Sir, Farooq Abdullah is not here.”
The Speaker urged Saugata to allow the new members to be sworn in first.
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.
Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress’s House leader, used the opportunity to also mention how the government was preventing Indian MPs from visiting Kashmir while escorting European parliamentarians to the Valley. He described the EU delegation as “bhade ke tattu” (hirelings).
“Our leader Rahul Gandhi was not allowed to visit (Kashmir), many MPs were sent back, but bhade ka tattu from Europe were taken there. Isn’t this an insult to all the MPs?” Adhir asked, inviting protests from the treasury benches.
Saying that Farooq’s detention had crossed 100 days, Adhir sought his release and a statement from Shah.
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.
DMK member T.R. Baalu sought the Speaker’s intervention in securing Farooq’s release. National Conference member Hasnain Masoodi made an emotional appeal to Birla.
“Farooq Sahab represents Srinagar, and it’s the right of the 20 lakh people of Srinagar that their voice be heard in this House.… One order from you can revoke it (Farooq’s detention),” Masoodi said.
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.