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PDP members gather at Mehbooba’s residence as she vows to fight for restoration of Article 370

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Srinagar : Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members on Wednesday made a beeline to Fairview Bungalow — the official residence of Mehbooba Mufti — hoping to meet her after she was released from detention of 14 months past night.

The PDP is also using social media to the hilt to enhance the image of Mehbooba, the first and last woman chief minister of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state, by posting videos and photographs of her meetings with her party workers.

Noor Mohammad, a party worker from south Kashmir who can barely stand upright due to old age, was among the people who met Mehbooba Mufti less than 24 hours after her release.

“I left home at 6 AM to ensure that I return only after meeting my sister and leader Mehbooba-ji. Her father (late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) was blessed, so is she,” the elderly man said.

The scenes at Mehbooba’s residence were in complete contrast to last year when leader after leader deserted the PDP and later joined hands with Altaf Bukhari — a former minister and close aide of the PDP president who floated his own political outfit later.

“Mehbooba-ji was detained for the longest period which shows how much the BJP government at the Centre is frightened of her popularity among the masses,” Bashir Ahmad, a party worker from Anantnag district, said after meeting the PDP president.

Several PDP leaders, including former MLA from Wachi Aijaz Mir, posted laudatory tweets about the party leader.

“After a detention period of 1 year and 2 months, our party president @MehboobaMufti sahiba released today. We salute her steadfast determination & exemplary courage!” Mir tweeted.

Mehbooba, who led the PDP-BJP alliance government from April 2016 to June 2018, was arrested along with other leaders hours ahead of the Centre bifurcating the state into two union territories and abrogating Article 370.

After being released on Tuesday night, she said the Centre’s decision of August 05 was a “daylight robbery”.

“We all have to pledge that we will take back what was snatched illegally, undemocratically and unconstitutionally on August 05 last year.

“We will also have to work for the resolution of Kashmir issue for which thousands of people have laid down their lives,” Mehbooba said in an audio message on Twitter.

Mehbooba was released on Tuesday night after the Union Territory administration revoked the Public Safety Act (PSA) charges against her, more than a year after she was detained following the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

The development came barely two days before the Supreme Court was to hear the matter related to her detention.

Mehbooba, 60, who was initially put under preventive custody on August 05 last year and later booked under the stringent PSA on February 06, was shifted to her official residence on April 07 after it was declared a subsidiary jail by the authorities.

Mohit Bhan, a spokesman of the PDP, praised Mehbooba for her message.

“That’s how a leader talks. No 4G restoration demands. No Statehood restoration demands. One and only demand and resolve to fight for it. Restore our dignity, restore our pride and restore our rights,” Bhan said.

Firdous Tak, a former MLC, said it was the pressure of the Supreme Court that has worked in getting Mehbooba Mufti released.

Meanwhile, senior PDP leaders in Jammu on Wednesday welcomed the release of party president, and said the party would emerge as “most popular” in Jammu and Kashmir under her leadership.

“Senior leaders held a meeting and welcomed the release of Mehbooba who was under illegal detention since August 4-5 last year,” a party release in Jammu said.

It said the release of the former chief minister from detention on Tuesday night was due to “strong pressure” from people of the Union Territory.

“There was no reason for the government to justify and continue her illegal and unconstitutional detention before the Supreme Court,” it said, adding that the PDP chief proved herself as an “iron lady” during her prolonged detention.

Prominent among those who attended the meeting included former Rajya Sabha member T S Bajwa, former legislators Ved Mahajan,  Mohammed Rashid Qureshi and Abdul Hamid Choudhary, the release said, terming the detention of Mehbooba as “black period” in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.

“The people of Jammu and Kashmir are fully supporting the PDP and will again emerge as the most popular party under the dynamic leadership of Mehbooba,” the press release said.

Welcoming the release of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Wednesday called for release of all other political detainees who are lodged in and outside J&K jails.

In a statement issued here, Bukhari observed that the government’s move to release Mufti, though delayed, is a significant step in the right direction. He, however, demanded immediate release of hundreds of political detainees who are still in jails and some of whom are lodged outside J&K since August 5, 2019.

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