NUMBERING over 30, all the mainstream political leaders kept under detention at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar since August 5 were on Sunday afternoon moved to the MLA hostel within the city, amid allegations of manhandling by police.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed that the hostel wasn’t equipped with heating facilities, the reason unofficially given for shifting the detainees. This led to protests, after which some leaders were allegedly roughed up. People’s Conference (PC) claimed its chairman Sajad Lone had been “manhandled and misbehaved with” under the pretext of security checking.
While District Magistrate Srinagar Shahid Chaudhary didn’t respond to calls, SSP, Security, Kashmir Imtiyaz Hussain denied the claims. “There are some mandatory drills which need to be followed… We followed those. Nothing of this sort happened,” he told The Indian Express. He later reiterated the same on Twitter.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti tweeted that Lone, senior PDP leader Waheed Para and chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement Shah Faesal were manhandled.
Claiming that “new jail windows are blocked with wood, (it) lacks heaters & has surveillance jammers”, Iltija, who uses Mehbooba’s handle, wrote a series of tweets, saying “manhandling started when Sajad Lone was repeatedly frisked & asked to undress”. “If a man who PM Modi called his younger brother is being humiliated like this, imagine plight of others… Is this how you treat elected representatives?… Lone sahabs aged mother refuses to leave srinagar despite the crippling cold because her son is jailed. Is this humane?”
The PC said the way Lone had been treated led to a heated exchange of words, “in which some members also exchanged physical blows”. “People’s Conference strongly condemns this reprehensible treatment… This attitude of the local police towards former democratically elected representatives of the people of Kashmir is a brazen display of arrogance and contempt for the rule of law,” the party said.
A senior PDP leader told The Indian Express the detained leaders were told they were being shifted “because of the cold”. Kashmir has been under an intense cold wave, with snow arriving earlier than usual. However, the government has not given any specific reason, and sources said one of the considerations was a bill of Rs 3.28 crore run up for housing detainees at the SKICC.
The centre was designated a subsidiary jail on August 5, the day the Union government revoked the special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Apart from Lone, Para and Faesal, senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar and senior NC leader Ali Mohammad Sagar were kept there.
On Friday, Mehbooba Mufti became the first political detainee in Kashmir to be moved to a new place after August 5 when she was shifted from a Chashme Shahi hut to government quarters close to Lal Chowk. Iltija had earlier requested her mother be shifted as the hut didn’t have enough heating.