A Bearded Omar or Clean Shaven, Twitter Goes To Polls!

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SRINAGAR: The unreal times the world lives in these days offers its own fun times. There are humour, black humour and a lot of statistics of death and morbidity. There is fear and fright, tensions and anxieties. Peoples are desperate for a reason to smile if not laugh.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah walking towards his father’s house after being released from detention after eighty months on Tuesday, March 24,2020 KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

In the midst of the Coronavirus scare, the government finally found it feasible to send Omar Abdullah home, barely a furlong away from his residence on Gupkar Road, Kashmir’s erstwhile power street. Other than seeking the release of political detainees and strict adherence to social distancing, Omar talked 4G at the gate of his sub jails and soon after having the lunch with his parents resumed his communications, using the twitter, always his powerful and the only major tool of communication.

Omar wrote a series of tweets.

A Different World

Omar’s first tweet before his luncheon reunion with his parents was about the change. “232 days after my detention today I finally left Hari Niwas. It’s a very different world today to the one that existed on 5th August 2019,” Omar tweeted. “A lot has happened since August, people have suffered a lot and I am going to talk about all that at length but right now the bigger problem is corona in front of us,” Omar told reporters waiting at the sub-jail gate. His mother, Molly also waited for her son.

After being released after eight months, Omar Abdullah with his parents in Srinagar on March 24, 2020. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“Had lunch with my mum & dad for the first time in almost 8 months. I can’t remember a better meal even though I’ve been in a bit of a daze & don’t remember what I ate,” he wrote after the lunch, attached a picture with parents, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Molly Abdullah.

A Beard Poll

The first response came from TV personality, Nidhi Razdan, the NDV executive editor. She wrote: “Welcome back. Now please shave.” This tweet sent the twitter on fire with so many literally trolling the TV anchor.

But what was interesting, the people started reacting to whether or not Omar Abdullah should shave his beard off. In an earlier tweet, Sardar Nasir Ali khan had suggested Omar: “We all hope that you won’t trim your beard.  Let it flow. Welcome back.” Another one suggested, ‘call the barber’.

It was in the midst of this virtual controversy that an India Today journalist, Shiv Aroor tweeted: “No! Omar keep the beard. Ok Twitter poll”. He soon got the virtual ballot box offering two options, one for those supporting his shave and another wanting him to retain the jail beard. So far,13500 twitter users have polled. 67 per cent voters want Omar to retain his beard. It has still two hours till the last virtual vote will be polled.

Profile Change

On the serious side, however, Omar has changed his twitter profile. Now his profile is prefixed with “Former PSA Political detinue” and continues “former CM of J&K state, former Union Minister, former MP, former MLA. Vice President JKNC.” Though in jail, Omar continues to have the largest twitter following in Jammu and Kashmir – 3.1 million.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah outside his house talking to reporters after being released from detention after eight months on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

In a series of tweets, Omar thanked his family, lawyers and his party. “I owe a huge debt of gratitude to @KapilSibal, Gopal Sankaranarayanan, @reyazshariq and their legal teams for taking the fight against my unjust PSA detention to the SC. Thank you to my baby sister Sara for filing the petition to have me freed,” one tweet reads.

His second tweet was about the crisis, the entire world has landed in. “We face the fight of our lives over the next few weeks & months as we come to terms & work to defeat #COVIDー19. I will do everything in my individual capacity to help the authorities overcome this challenge & I appeal to all of you to do the same.”

Blog Versus Book

He quickly added: “On a lighter note if anyone wants tips on surviving quarantine or a lockdown I have months of experience at my disposal, perhaps a blog is in order.” TV personality, Rajdeep Sardesai could not stop responding: “On a lighter note if anyone wants tips on surviving quarantine or a lockdown I have months of experience at my disposal, perhaps a blog is in order.”

A Jinxed Palace?

Many of his friends and followers took a strong exception to his revelation that it will be a “blog”. “A blog? Only a blog?! I’d have thought you’ll have an entire manuscript by now… where is it?.” former TV reporter Maya Mirchandani wrote. Added Rituparna Chatterjee, of the Reports without Borders: “Very, very disappointing Omar. Where’s the book?”

Brickbats

This also is a fact that many of his followers did resort to brick bating on him. “How is the Josh?”, some Vaishali Mishra wrote to him. Somebody with a twitter handle #Restore4GinKashmir Xahoor Bhat tweeted: “How was the taste of your own medicine Mr Abdullah?” Shah Ahsaan Ilahi asked: “..PSA’yas cha mazai aasaan?” (Kashmiri meaning, how tasty is PSA?) Some even resorting to advising him. “Don’t you misuse this freedom now. Do some good for your people. I visited Kashmir for few days in February and people ere happy that you politicians were locked up,” some Prakash Gaba CFTe wrote him.

Return After 8 Months

Omar’s last tweets were on August 5, 2019. “Violence will only play into the hands of those who do not have the best interests of the state in mind. This wasn’t the India J&K acceded to but I’m not quite ready to give up hope yet. Let calm heads prevail. God be with you all,” Omar said in his first tweet that day. “While I’ve been focused on Kashmir I must add a word for people in Kargil, Ladakh & Jammu. I’ve no idea what is in store for our state but it doesn’t look good. I know many of you will be upset by what unfolds. Please don’t take the law into your own hands, please stay calm.”

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah walking towards his father’s house after being released from detention after eight months on Tuesday, March 24,2020 KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

In his third tweet, he said: “I’m especially concerned about the people living in the Pir Panchal & Chenab Valley regions. These areas have been very susceptible to attempts at communal violence. I hope the Govt has taken adequate precautions to ensure no communal trouble breaks out.” Then he went silent.

Officials said he lacked internet connectivity for most of the months though he had some films and access to his iPad. However, for the last many weeks, he was permitted to have a phone. But this information is not verified.

The Release

The orders revoking the PSA against Omar was issued by Jammu and Kashmir Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra. He had been booked under the stringent act on February 5, hours before his six-month custody under preventive detention completed.

Dr Farooq Abdullah, Kashir’s five times Chief Minister, was also charged under the PSA and released on March 13 after 221 days in detention. PDP leader and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti continues to be under detention. Omar’s release came within days after the Supreme Court asked the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration to inform by this week if it was releasing him. This was in response to Sarah Abdullah, Omar’s sister taking is detention to the court.

Omar Move Out of Jail Finally, Seeks Release of Detainees, 4G

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