Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad met National conference chief Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar on Saturday, becoming the first leader to visit the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister after release from detention.

Azad has been a vocal critic of the BJP for revoking Article 370 and detention of political leaders in Kashmir.

He had taken on Home Minister Amit Shah in the Parliament on August 5, 2019, when the Article 370 was revoked and Jammu and Kashmir was reorganised and split into two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Azad also sought early restoration of political process in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The political process has to start. Only with political process, elections are held and the government is chosen by the people,” said the Congress leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

Talking to the media along with Abdullah at the latter’s residence, Azad said India was not famous for its size but democracy. But it was no democracy when three former Chief Ministers were under detention for over seven months, and the fourth had to seek the Supreme Court’s permission for a visit, he said.

On the revocation of Article 370, the Congress leader said, “Let’s first restore democracy, which can be done only after all leaders behind bars are released.”

Azad said the statehood to J&K should be restored. “In 1947, 560 princely states were clubbed to form 12 states, but J&K was the only state that didn’t need other states to merge with it.” It was a state even in the Mughal era and Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign, he said.

“Making such a big state onto a Union Territory is an insult to the people. I wish the leaders are released quickly and J&K is made a state again,” he said.

He said he was happy that Abdullah was released after over seven months. “We don’t know why he was detained. Generally, those people are kept under detention who have violated the law or have done something against the country and the government. But these leaders were detained even before the abrogation of article 370,” Azad said.

He said he was friends with the Abdullah for over 40 years and had come to see him on behalf of MPs who raised their voices inside as well as outside Parliament for the release of leaders and common people.

On the Apni Party, a new political party led by former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari, he said J&K could only be run by an elected government. “Agency parties can’t run J&K,” he said.

Stating that there has been no work happening in J&K for the past 3 years, Azad said, “There is lot of unemployment. Tourism, handicrafts and fruit industries have suffered. In Jammu, transport section is affected, the small-scale industries of J&K are suffering.”

The only solution “is to release all political leaders immediately and start a political process,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Farooq Abdullah met with his son Omar Abdullah at Hari Nivas, a day after the Public Safety Act (PSA) was revoked against him.

This is for the first time the father-son duo met after the revocation of Artcile 370 on August 5 last year.

Farooq was also accompanied by his daughter Safiya and her two sons.

Soon after his release on Friday Farooq went to pay obeisance at his father Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s grave. On Friday, Farooq’s younger brother Mustafa Kamal, elder sister Khalida and her son Muzaffar came to meet him at his residence.

This was for the first time the Abdullah siblings had a reunion after the BJP’s Article 370 move.

However, Abdullah has stated that he will not speak on any political matter till the time everyone is released.

83-year-old Farooq Abdullah, Member of Parliament from Srinagar, who was under detention since August 5, 2019, after the BJP government abrogated Article 370, was released on Friday.