Lack of facilities, new worry for Kashmir’s VIP inmates

A villager walks on a road shrouded in dense fog on a cold winter morning, at Ranbir Singh Pura on the outskirts of Jammu. PTI

Lack of basic facilities and the winter chill is the new worry for Kashmir’s VIP prisoners and their families with reports of alleged mishandling of some of them during their shifting from one detention facility to other emerging on Monday.

Over 33 political leaders, including former ministers and legislators, who were arrested by the authorities after August 5, were shifted to MLA Hostel from Centaur Hotel, here on Sunday afternoon.

There were reports that some of the leaders, including Peoples Conference chairman and former BJP ally Sajjad Lone, were manhandled by the security personnel after they had heated arguments with authorities at MLA Hostel over the lack of basic facilities in rooms provided to them.

Iltija Mufti, daughter of PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, in a tweet said, “Manhandling started when Sajjad Lone was repeatedly frisked and asked to undress. New jail windows are blocked with woods, lack heaters and have surveillance jammers.” 

These leaders’ along with three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti - were arrested ahead of abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the erstwhile State into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.

The winter chill was already taking a toll on the health of the detainees that include National Conference, People’s Democratic Party and People’s Conference leaders and prominent social activists, as well as the security personnel guarding them. During the winter, the temperature in Srinagar dips below the freezing point.

The family members of the detainees told reporters that they have been kept in unhygienic rooms, which lack proper heating arrangements. “Authorities are treating former ministers and legislators worse than criminals. The rooms provided to them are unhygienic, have no regular power supply and proper heating arrangements,” a family member of one of the detained leaders told DH.

He said even in chilly winter, no regular hot water facility has been provided to the detained leaders. “The washrooms are so unhygienic that there is fear of disease outbreak in the hostel. Geysers of several rooms are not functioning,” he complained.

J&K Additional Director General Police (ADGP) Muneer Khan said that it was the job of the administration to check the heating and other arrangements provided to the detainees. “Our job is to provide foolproof security to the detainees,” he said while denying the reports of manhandling of any leader during the shifting.

Asked whether there was any chance of release of these leaders in the near future, Khan said as of now he had no information about it. 

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