The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s order to revoke the Public Safety Act, under which he was held, came as a surprise to many

“Today I am free …I am free,” Farooq Abdullah, the National Conference (NC) president, told waiting media persons from the terraced courtyard of his Gupkar Road residence on Friday shortly after he was released from his detention.

Abdullah, in a long black coat and his wife Molly and daughter Safia by his side, appeared calm even though he was talking to the media after over seven months of incarceration. The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s order to revoke the Public Safety Act, under which he was held, came as a surprise to many.

As the media persons rushed to his house in the afternoon, both local residents and police personnel were caught unawares. “We were not aware of the revocation of his detention order. Had we known it beforehand, we would have reached even before the media persons and not allowed them to come so close to the residence,” said a police officer while pushing back the journalists to the other side of Gupkar Road.

Media persons waited for over an hour and half for the politician to show up as the NC flag —white plough on a red background — fluttered in the cool breeze in the Abdullahs’ courtyard.

Local residents started to enquire about the fuss because of the commotion outside his residence. Some of the NC supporters also reached the spot as the news spread. “I want to catch a glimpse of the leader. I have not seen him for the past many months,” said Mohammad Hussain, an NC Halqa president from Srinagar.

The police whisked away two NC ‘supporters’ as they appeared suspicious, but were released after a while.

Safia tweeted “My father is a free man again”, but kept waiting for the “magistrate to open the seal on the locks”, as her Twitter timeline got flooded with congratulatory messages.

Many locals were not enthused by his release. “What’s the big deal? Has he even cared about the neighbourhood where he lives? asked an auto-rickshaw driver near his residence.

A young man was indifferent to the three-time chief minister and Lok Sabha member’s plight. “It’s better for him to shun politics. There is nothing for him to do now. He has been reduced to a pauper and everything is up to the lieutenant governor,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Javaid Ahmad, a resident of north Kashmir, said that the release of Abdullah is no cause for celebrations in Kashmir. “Will he be able to speak about the autonomy, which the NC has been talking about since 1953? We have seen many leaders, who only talk about statehood,” he said.