As the Enforcement Directorate attaches properties of Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference and other parties in Kashmir decry the ‘vendetta politics’ of the Central government

Published : December 20, 2020 12:33 IST

Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and president, National Conference, launches a party membership drive after offering prayers at the mausoleum of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, his father and party founder, at Naseem Bagh in Srinagar on December 5. Photo: PTI

The Enforcement Directorate (E.D.) attached residential and commercial properties worth Rs.12 crore belonging to Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, on December 19. The E.D.’s action, described by the National Conference (N.C.) as a case of “political vendetta”, comes in the wake of the Central Bureau of Investigation into a money-laundering case involving the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) that Abdullah headed.

The properties that were attached include three residential houses at Gupkar Road in Srinagar, Tanmarg in Baramulla district and Bhatindi in Jammu, four plots of land across Jammu and Kashmir and a commercial complex at Residency Road in Srinagar. The agency has alleged that the 83-year-old NC leader’s residence at Gupkar and the commercial complex at Residency Road were built on land belonging to the state and obtained on lease. It has accused Abdullah of grabbing state and forest land.

The N.C. condemned the E.D.’s actions which it said were unwarranted and unjustified. “There is no evidence worth the name on record to justify the order of attachment of the property. These ancestral assets had been acquired decades back, and there is no justification why these should be attached,” the party said in a statement. “It is nothing except political vendetta and an attempt to silence the leadership and dissuade it from voicing support to political aspirations of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.”

Between 2011 and 2012, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had given Rs.112 crore to the JKCA for the promotion of cricket in the State. It has been alleged that there was misappropriation of Rs.46.3 crore. Farooq Abdullah, who headed the JKCA then, was named in the charge sheet filed by the CBI.

According to the E.D., Farooq Abdullah is an alleged beneficiary of the laundered funds. The E.D. has also alleged that although the JKCA had a bank account, six new bank accounts were opened allegedly for parking and misappropriating the funds. Cash withdrawals to the tune of about Rs. 25 crore without proper justifcation were made, it has alleged.

Omar Abdullah, N.C. leader and Farooq Abdullah’s son, rubbished these allegations and claimed that the attached properties were ancestral and built in the 1970s. “There can be no justification for the seizures because they fail the very basic test of having been acquired as the proceeds of the ‘crime’ being investigated,” he tweeted. He said his father would fight the case in the courts.

In October, Farooq Abdullah was twice summoned by the E.D. in connection with the case. The summons, which followed the creation of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), were seen as an arm-twisting tactic by a large section of the political and intellectual elite in Srinagar.

Mehbooba Mufti, former Chief Minister and head of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), questioned the E.D. action. “Attaching Dr Farooq saheb’s properties is sheer political vendetta as was evident from the abuses heaped on PAGD by BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party]. People of J&K were least impressed & placed their faith in the alliance.Using agencies like NIA & ED to settle scores shows BJP’s frustration,” she tweeted.

Yousuf Tarigami of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), a four-time legislator from Kulgam and convenor of the PAGD, said the BJP was unnerved by the support the PAGD received in the just-concluded District Development Council (DDC) elections in the State. “Attaching the property of Dr Abdullah is a part of the vindictive politics practised by the Central government to kill dissent and disagreement across the country and the present case has surfaced at a time when the DDC elections have just concluded,” he said.