33 political detainees shifted to MLAs’ hostel amid high drama

Cavalcade of political prisoners who were shifted to MLA hostel from SKICC Srinagar on Sunday. -Excelsior/Shakeel
Cavalcade of political prisoners who were shifted to MLA hostel from SKICC Srinagar on Sunday. -Excelsior/Shakeel

Standoff at Centaur over non-payment of Rs 3.5 cr bills
Scuffle over frisking, detainees allege harassment

Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, Nov 17: Amid high drama and allegations of manhandling, administration today shifted 33 political detainees to MLAs hostel at Maulana Azad Road here from Centaur Hotel on the banks of Dal lake amid high security.
The high drama started this morning when the first batch of 12 detainees was being shifted from the Centaur Hotel. The employees of the hotel prevented the administration from shifting the detainees and damanded payment of Rs 3.5 crore. They told the administration that they will not allow their shifting unless bills for hosting political detainees since August this year amounting to over Rs 3.5 crore are not cleared.

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The standoff lasted for around an hour and police and security officials present there failed to break the impasse. Finally, the administration sent Magistrate, Naeem Khan, to handle the situation. He assured the hotel administration that Government will clear the bills. Khan later signed the bills after the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar also spoke to the hotel administration assuring them that he will clear the hotel bills.
The administration after converting the hotel into jail booked 42 rooms including 13 rooms for the security of the sub-jail. The administration has not paid room rent and food and beverage bill to the hotel since August. Sources said that the bllls amount to over Rs 3.5 crore.
The 33 detainees including general secretary of National Conference (NC), Ali Mohammad Sagar, Naeem Akhtar of PDP, Chairman of Peoples Conference Sajjad Lone and bureaucrat turned politician Shah Faisal were later shifted in a convoy amid tight security to MLAs hostel, part of which has been converted into sub-jail under the orders of Home Department.
The MLAs’ hostel witnessed scuffle between some of the detainees and the security staff during their frisking and checking of luggage. An official said that the detainees possessed cell phones and the necessary security checking was done before they were taken inside the hostel.
Sources said that Peoples Conference chairman, Sajjad Lone had scuffle with security personnel over the frisking. He alleged harassment at the hands of the security in the name of frisking. “Why don’t they not trust us? We are not thieves” he shouted.
The former PDP Legislator, Yasir Reshi, Deputy Mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Sheikh Imran and NC leader Hilal Lone also joined Sajjad. These detainees too had hot exchange of words with the security staff posted at the MLAs hostel.
Later they refused to go to their rooms and protested outside the main building. Sagar and Akhtar later intervened and asked the protesting detainees to shift to their rooms. “It does not look nice. They have their own duty. Please shift to your rooms”. the duo told protesting detainees who later shifted to their rooms.
The daughter of Mehbooba Mufti, Iitija later in the afternoon tweeted about alleged harassment of the detainees. “SKICC detenues were shifted to MLAs hotel, Srinagar today. Police manhandled them and roughed up Sajjad Lone, Wahid Para and Shah Faisal. Is this how you treated elected representatives? Why, humiliate them? J&K under martial law and Police seems to be inebriated with power”, she tweeted.
In another tweet, she said: “Manhandling started when Sajjad Lone was repeatedly frisked and asked to undress. New jail windows are blocked with wood, lacks heaters and has surveillance jammers. If a man whom PM Modi called his younger brother is being, humiliated like this, imagine the plight of others.”
Responding to the tweets of Iltija Mufi, police said: “Apropos twitter handle claiming mishandling of some people at MLA’s hostel Srinagar. It is hereby clarified that no such incident has taken place. Mandatory security drills were followed as required for lodgment”.
The detainees were accommodated in 33 rooms of the MLAs hostel and five rooms have been given to their security. The hostel has been partitioned as one portion of it is being occupied by the Corporators of the SMC Srinagar. The DySP of the security Sajjad Ahmad Dar is the jailor of the sub-jail.
The security around the MLAs hostel has been further intensified after it was converted into sub-jail and the detainees were shifted there.