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Omar to keep off Hari Niwas,stay at own house

The story of chief ministers in Kashmir is not only about the throne but also of their dream residences.

Written by Zahid Rafiq | Srinagar | Published: January 5, 2009 10:56:28 pm

The story of chief ministers in Kashmir is not only about the throne but also of their dream residences. But Omar Abdullah,who is hours away from becoming Jammu and Kashmir’s youngest CM,has decided to stay away from the 66-room palatial Hari Niwas,the retouched remnant of the Dogra Raj which his party National Conference had revolted against. He will instead stay put at his three-bedroom house in Gupkar.

“I have a small family. My two children would be lost in that huge mansion. In fact,I don’t need such a huge mansion to live in,” Omar said.

The Hari Niwas palace is a remnant of Dogra rule in Kashmir that had instigated one of the biggest rebellions. In fact,it was Omar’s grandfather,Sheikh Abdullah,who led Kashmiris to rise in revolt against the Dogra rule in the Valley.

The palace was built by Hari Singh,the then Dogra maharaja of Kashmir for his wife Tara Devi. When the Dogra ruler finally fled in 1947,the building was not put to any use. In 1980,the land was bought with an intention of converting the building into a hotel,but the plan didn’t take off.

Later,the Government purchased the building and used if for the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) after 1985,and by 1990,when armed uprising started,it was used as an interrogation chamber.

When he became CM in 2008,Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had decided to stay in the Banquet Hall at Maulana Azad road “to be closer to people”. It had been the official CM Secretariat decades before and had also served as the Assembly once. But was later discarded for security reasons. Mufti,however,ignored the security threat and chose to stay at the Banquet Hall.

Mufti renovated and refurbished his dream residence by spending Rs 2.15 crore during the 2003-04 financial year. When Mufti’s three-year stint as CM ended,he moved to a safe house in Gupkar area,Fair View,the infamous Papa II interrogation Centre of 90’s.

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