November 2019 News

JK Admin Shifts Political Prisoners From Centaur Hotel To MLA Hostel

17 November 2019

Srinagar: As Srinagar reeled under harsh winter conditions, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday shifted all 34 political prisoners, lodged at Centaur Hotel since August 5, to the MLA Hostel as the facility lacked proper heating arrangements, officials said. The winter chill took a toll on the health of the detenues - National Conference, PDP and People's Conference leaders and prominent social activists - and the security personnel guarding them. They were lodged at the hotel on the bank of the scenic Dal Lake on August 5 when the central government announced its decision to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and split the state into two Union territories. Kashmir Valley, including Srinagar City, was reeling under winter chill and witnessed the season's first snowfall earlier this month. The seat of administration in the newly created Union territory has moved from Srinagar to Jammu for the winter months. The administration carried out required modification of rooms in the MLA Hostel on Maulana Azad Road in the heart of the city to accommodate the political prisoners. It has been declared as a subsidiary jail by an order of the J-K home department. Among the political prisoners are Sajjad Lone of People's Conference (PC), Ali Mohammad Sagar of National Conference (NC), Naem Akhtar of the PDP and former IAS officer Shah Faesal. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was on Friday shifted to a government accommodation in the city from a tourist hut located at the foothills of Zaberwan range, officials said here. The move was necessitated as the approaching winters and frequent power cuts made it difficult to stay in the hut which was converted into a jail after she was detained on August 5 this year. According to the officials privy to the development, Centaur Hotel, owned by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), has submitted a bill of nearly Rs 3 crore to the home department for over 100 days of boarding and lodging of the detenues. The administration has, however, rejected the claims of Centaur Hotel and argued that the facility was converted into a subsidiary jail on August 5 and therefore, government rates would be paid. The rates sanctioned by the administration would be around Rs 800 per day as against Rs 5,000 charged by the hotel, the officials said. Tempers ran high during the shifting of political detainees from Centaur Hotel, located on the bank of Dal Lake, to the MLA Hostel when People's Conference chief Sajjad Lone allegedly refused to cooperate in the mandatory body search and luggage frisking by police personnel, officials said on Sunday. The incident took place when Lone, who was part of a group of 34 political prisoners, arrived at the MLA Hostel at the high-security Maulana Azad Road. Lone's party claimed that he was 'manhandled' on pretext of security checking but the police denied it, saying it was following mandatory security drills. The officials said Lone, who was a minister in previous PDP-BJP government in erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, wanted to walk straight to the room without being frisked after reaching the MLA Hostel. The officials said that as the MLA Hostel has been declared a subsidiary jail, prison manual was being followed and every one was lodged after frisking. The People's Conference issued a statement through its spokesman Adnan Ashraf, claiming that the police on the pretext of security checking, 'manhandled and misbehaved' with Lone. 'This led to a heated exchange of words in which some of the members also exchanged physical blows,' the statement said and condemned the police action. Denying the allegation, Senior Superintendent of Police (Security) Imtiyaz Hussain tweeted, 'some Twitter handle claiming manhandling of some people at MLA hostel Srinagar, it is hereby clarified that no such incident has taken place. Mandatory security drills were followed as required for lodgement.'