SRINAGAR: Though not uncommon in Kashmir but Omar Abdullah turned 50 in incarceration. His birthday came a day after six opposition parties including the three parties headed by former Prime Minister, H D Deve Gowda, Mamata Benerjee and Sharad Pawar strongly sought the release of Jammu and Kashmir’s three former Chief Ministers including Omar Abdullah.
At one stage, Omar’s birthday used to be an elaborate affair. The only make in the third generation of Abdullahs’, everybody would ensure they wish him on his day. Off late, however, Omar used to say that his friends should avoid wishing him being young because he is not young.
Incarceration apart, his birthday came during interesting times. When his sister, Sara Abdullah Pilot finally moved the Supreme Court with a habeas corpus petition, it was expected to be heard early as the bench indicated initially. When it was supposed to be heard, one of the jury members recused himself. When came up again, bench indicated that a fortnight is not so long. Finally, when the third instance came, it was delayed further.
Born on March 10, 1970, in Rochford, Essex, United Kingdom, Omar is the scion of Kashmiri’s most influential and oldest political family. Omar studied at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar and then at Lawrence School, Sonawar. He is an alumnus of Sydenham College, Mumbai (where he did his Hotel management degree). After that, he joined the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, for MBA, although he did not complete it.
Omar married Payal Nath, daughter of an Army officer, Major General Ram Nath from Delhi on September 1, 1994, and before separation, the couple had two sons, Zahir and Zamir.
Omar joined politics in 1998, as a Lok Sabha member, a feat he repeated in subsequent three elections. He served as a Union minister of state for external affairs in NDA government from July 23, 2001, to December 23, 2002.
Omar took on the mantle of National Conference from his father Dr Farooq Abdullah, on June 23, 2002, and resigned from NDA government in October 2002 to concentrate on party work.
After taking the reins of his party, Omar lost his own seat of Ganderbal in 2002, the otherwise bastion of National Conference. He was re-elected as NC president in 2006.
Omar later contested again for Ganderbal in 2008. This time he emerged as a winning candidate. His party as well emerged to have a political mandate and along with congress, formed a coalition government. Later, he moved to Beerwah, a constituency that he won in 2014.
Interestingly, his mother Mollie, an English woman and nurse by profession, was not in favour of him joining politics. Now she is in Srinagar – after a very long time, shuttling between her husband Dr Farooq Abdullah and son, Omar, who are restricted to two places almost one km apart.
Omar’s twitter with more than three million followers is expected to remain busy for the whole day as people – some, out of sympathy, will wish him on his first birthday in jail. Omar who would routinely be fashion symbol has now grown salt and pepper beard that has given him a new identity at least for the time being.
Omar’s mother and sister have access to him in the Palace jail, twice a week. After almost 68 days, his sons came and met him in October. Then, he was under arrest under section 107 of RPC. After he completed six months, he was formally detained under the Public Safety Act.
With inputs from KL