The beginning of Kashmir’s harsh winter has forced authorities to shift around 35 political detainees, including former Chief Minister and Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, to “warmer locations” in Srinagar.
Senior officials told The Hindu that Ms. Mufti will be shifted to government accommodation, house number 6, located at Transport Lane on the Maulana Azad Road in Srinagar from the hut-turned sub-jail at Chashma Shahi.
The hut was located on the slope of Zabarwan hills and the place would get colder than the lower areas in winter. “The Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, had received a formal request from Ms. Mufti and her family about the discomfort being faced by her due to power cuts and growing cold waves in the wake of the recent snowfall,” the officials said.
Ms. Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti too had approached the administration formally and cited a medical report to “have her unwell mother shifted to a location with better heating facility.”
Heavy snowfall on November 7 has set off a cold wave in Kashmir and even struck a major blow to electricity supply, affecting the detention centres too.
Sources said the sub-jail of Hari Niwas Palace, also located at the foothills of Zabarwan, where former Chief Minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah is detained, also faced major power cuts between November 7 and 10. Sources said a visibly angry Mr. Abdullah offered to pay for the fuel to run the generator sets to the security personnel guarding the sub-jail, “which was turned down.”
The authorities are also considering to shift 34 political detainees, including former minister and PDP leader Naeem Akhtar, People’s Conference chief and former minister Sajjad Lone, J&K Peoples Movement chief and IAS topper Shah Faesal and Srinagar Municipal Corporation deputy major Sheikh Imran. They are held at the Centaur Hotel located on the premises of the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC), housed on the banks of the Dal Lake.
“We have decided to shift them to a multi-storey building of MLAs Hostel on M.A. Road,” said an official. The Centaur Hotel which may have a better heating system, has billed the government over ₹2.6 crore as rent to keep the prisoners since August 5.
“When snowfall occurred last week, I had to get hot water bottles from home for my father. The generator was not made available round the clock for heating the rooms. The government need to understand they are political prisoners and not criminals”, said the son of a senior NC leader.
The MLAs Hostel, at the peak of the militancy, was made a secure zone to house mainstream political leaders and high profile personalities, most of whom faced threats from the militants.
According to official data, around 279 political leaders and workers were detained in the clampdown against the regional parties following the August 5 decision to revoke J&K’s special status. In the past three months many leaders have been released and the numbers in detention now stand around 227, including three former chief ministers and over a dozen ex-ministers.