From BJP ally to detenu, Sajad Lone caught in political quicksands

Sajad Lone was tipped to be CM with BJP support last year

August 19, 2019 10:35 pm | Updated 10:35 pm IST - New Delhi

Sajad Lone. File photo: Vivek Bendre

Sajad Lone. File photo: Vivek Bendre

Less than a year after having been on the cusp of forming a government with BJP support and PDP rebels in Jammu & Kashmir, Sajad Lone, president of the People’s Conference, now finds himself under “preventive detention” in a three-star hotel in Srinagar, his only link to the outside world the Doordarshan News channel on his room’s TV.

Party spokesperson Adnan Ashraf Mir, who met the former separatist-turned-politician on August 6, two days after he was detained, said that several security personnel stood guard outside Mr. Lone’s room at the Centaur Hotel and that the only TV channel the People’s Conference leader had been given access to was Doordarshan News.

“When I met him at the hotel, he told me he was in shock and it was a dark day for the people of Kashmir and the rest of India. These were his only words,” Mr. Mir told The Hindu in Delhi.

Mr. Mir added that he and a couple of other party persons had managed to meet Mr. Lone for about 30 minutes on August 6, the only time Mr. Lone had been allowed to speak to anyone following his detention. “We told the security people that we had to give him some medicines, they allowed us. But throughout our meeting, the cops were present in the room. The accommodation is decent,” Mr. Mir added.

Mr. Lone’s father Abdul Gani Lone was killed by unidentified assailants in 2002. Mr. Lone’s party had two MLAs in the J&K Assembly that was dissolved last year. A Kashmir politician who had once referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his elder brother, Mr. Lone was in talks with rebel members of the PDP to form a government with BJP’s support in J&K last year after the BJP-PDP government collapsed, and before the Assembly was dissolved in November.

The Valley has been under lockdown since August 5 when Home Minister Amit Shah moved two Bills in the Rajya Sabha to read down Article 370 that had granted special status to J&K and downgrade and bifurcate the State into two Union Territories.

“More than 100 party cadres have either been detained or arrested, we don’t have an exact number as our constituencies are in the border areas,” said Mr. Mir. “News can still trickle in from Srinagar but it takes time to get any information from border areas. I am the only member of my party who has not been held,” added the spokesperson, who said he had come to Delhi on August 10.

“I was not detained as they wouldn’t have considered me important enough, but all the leaders who could mobilise public opinion have been put in jail or makeshift detention camps,” he asserted. “There is no point in being silent now, if we don’t speak up now, it will be too late,” he added.

Mr. Mir said that he was talking on the phone with his party leader on the night of August 4 when some security personnel had come knocking on Mr. Lone’s door. “This was around 11.30 p.m. He sensed there was some trouble. For a day he was kept at his official residence under house arrest, he was shifted to Centaur a day later,” Mr. Mir said, adding that Mr. Lone’s wife had also not been allowed to meet him.

The Home Ministry and J&K administration have declined to divulge the exact number of persons who have been placed in “preventive detention” since August 5. Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh had earlier told The Hindu that the total number of politicians or political workers taken into “preventive detention” was not centrally available as the decisions were being taken at the local level.

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