Former chief minister of Kashmir freed as India goes on virus lockdown

Omar Abdullah. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Former chief minister of Kashmir freed as India goes on virus lockdown

  • Abdullah’s release comes a week after the Supreme Court’s inquiry into his detention

PATNA: Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, walked free on Tuesday, after nearly eight months of detention.
 “It’s a very different world today to the one that existed on Aug. 5, 2019,” Abdullah said in a Twitter post, minutes after his release, referring to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
He was detained along with hundreds of Kashmiri political activists after New Delhi revoked the special status and relative autonomy of Kashmir, put the region on lockdown and imposed a communications and internet blackout.
 In a brief press conference in Srinagar, the National Conference (NC) leader called for the immediate release of others in preventive detention.
 “Be it Mehbooba Mufti (the former chief minister) or any leader from NC, they should be freed. We are fighting a war of life and death. All our people who have been detained should be released at this time,” Abudullah said.
 He also demanded the restoration of 3G and 4G networks in the region.
 He refused to comment on political developments by saying that the time was not appropriate and requested that everyone “follow government orders to fight COVID-19.”
Abdullah’s release comes a week after the Supreme Court’s inquiry into his detention.
“If you are releasing him, then release him soon or we will hear the matter on merits,” India’s apex court told the government on March 18.
 On Tuesday, the government of Jammu and Kashmir, in a brief press statement, said that the detention order of Abdullah was “revoked.”


Omar Abdullah calls for release of other Kashmiri activists kept in detention since Aug. 5 — says will talk about politics later as coronavirus response is first priority.

 According to politicians from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Abdullah’s release is a “positive sign for the resumption of the demo-cratic process in the state.
 “The situation then when the leaders were put behind detention and now is different. There was a peculiar reason to detain them. The situation now is different and conducive to starting the democratic process, and the release of Abdullah should be seen in that light,” Srinagar-based BJP leader Dr. Hina Bhat told Arab News.
 Well-known Kashmiri academic and political analyst Prof. Siddiq Wahid said: “Theoretically Omar Abdullah is released, but for all practical purposes he is under detention, because he comes out of detention at a time when not only Kashmir but the whole nation is under lockdown due to COVID-19.
 “It’s very difficult to say at this stage how the politics is going to play out in Kashmir,” Wahid told Arab News.
 On Monday, rights activists in Kashmir launched an online campaign appealing to the Indian government to release hundreds of Kashmiri political prisoners detained since August, in view of the spread of COVID-19.
 The hashtag #ReleaseKashmiriPrisoners has been trending on social media, with activists urging world human rights bodies to press on the Indian government.
 “Kashmiri prisoners who are under preventive detention in various jails across India should be released urgently. Preventive detention is otherwise a human rights violation, but in the context of the pandemic if anything happens to a single prisoner it will be the state’s responsibility,” Srinagar-based human rights activist Khurram Parvez told Arab News.


Bernie Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

Updated 35 min 59 sec ago

Bernie Sanders drops 2020 bid, leaving Biden as likely nominee

  • The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November
  • Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday

WASHINGTON: Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.
The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November.
Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.
Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last October on the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.
The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.
Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small.
Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him.
But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.
In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.
Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.
Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten.
“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.