Former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A S Dulat met the imprisoned former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah recently in Srinagar, however, details of their conversation remains unknown, officials said. The former RAW chief, a close friend of the Srinagar Lok Sabha Parliamentarian Farooq Abdullah, had a long conversation with the five-time chief minister.
When questioned about the meeting, Dulat denied that any such meeting had taken place, saying, "I have no comments to offer," the Indian spy agency's former chief said. The officials said the meeting took place on February 12 at Abdullah's Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar, which has been converted into a subsidiary jail by the Jammu and Kashmir home department.
The officials, however, downplayed the meeting, saying it was a courtesy meeting as the two -- Abdullah and Dulat -- share a long relationship. The former RAW chief had been reportedly approaching Jammu and Kashmir authorities for a meeting with Farooq Abdullah, who was taken into preventive custody on August 5 in 2019 after the government abrogated Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, bifurcating the state into union territories.
Dulat had been sent in 1999 by the then NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to convince a reluctant Abdullah to release Masood Azhar, founder of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed terror outfit, in exchange for passengers of hijacked Indian Airlines plane IC-814. The Vajpayee government had used Dulat in 1999 because he had handled a similar situation in 1989 during VP Singh's government. As station head of the Intelligence Bureau, he had been tasked to secure the release of five terrorists in exchange for Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the then home minister Mufti Sayeed, who had been kidnapped by JKLF militants.
In his book 'Kashmir - The Vajpayee Years', Dulat recalled his meeting with Abdullah in 1999 and wrote "You again You were there during Rubaiya's kidnapping. How could you come back again? I said then whatever you are doing is wrong, and I am saying it again. I don't agree with it." In his book, he had expressed his close bonding with Abdullah.
Farooq Abdullah was taken into preventive custody following the abrogation of Article 370. However, on September 17 last year, he was charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Initially for three months, later his detention was renewed on December 16. The former chief minister is now confined to his Srinagar residence, which is now declared as a sub-jail. Under the Public Safety Act, an individual can be detained for up to two years, without a trial. Incidentally, the act was introduced by Farooq Abdullah's father, Sheikh Abdullah in 1978.
His house, located at Gupkar Road, has been declared a sub-jail by the union territory's Home Department. The 82-year-old Abdullah, who became the first chief minister against whom the stringent public safety law was invoked, has a heart pacemaker implanted and had undergone a kidney transplant a few years ago. The PSA has two sections -- 'public order' and 'threat to the security of the state'. The former allows detention without trial for three to one year and the latter for two years.
Despite being detained under the Public Safety Act, oddly, the 81-year-old mainstream politician was recently included in a 21-member consultative committee on defense by the government. Abdullah, in a letter, had condemned the government for disallowing him to attend the winter session of the Parliament, wherein significant Bills were passed. "It is most unfortunate that they are not able to deliver me my post in time. I am sure this is not the way to treat a senior Member of the Parliament and leader of a political party. We are not criminals," the National Conference chief said.
(with PTI inputs)