Emotional Scenes at MLA Hostel as Detained Leaders Meet Relatives

Shehrayar Khanum, daughter of PDP leader Nayeem Akthar on the way to MLA hostel to meet his detained father. Pic Abid Bhat

SRINAGAR –  Families of detained mainstream Kashmiri political leaders, who have been under custody for over three months now, on Wednesday rued the lack of basic amenities at the MLA Hostel here, where the detainees were moved from a hotel early this week.

The families, who were allowed to meet the leaders, claimed that the MLA Hostel did not have proper heating arrangements and the food being provided to the politicians was substandard.

With Srinagar reeling under harsh winter conditions, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday shifted 34 political prisoners to the MLA Hostel, which has been designated a sub-jail, from Centaur Hotel as it lacked heating arrangements.

“This is a defunct building which lacks basic facilities. There should be a hygienic place for these leaders. There are no heating arrangements, no proper lighting arrangements. We have to get these facilities ourselves rather than the government providing them,” Shehriyar Khanum, daughter of former minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Naeem Akhtar, told reporters.

Tanveer Veeri, brother of National Conference (NC) leader and former MLC Bashir Veeri, said, “It would be better if they are shifted to the MLA Hostel in Jammu or even the Central Jail. There are no proper heating or lighting arrangements at MLA Hostel, Srinagar.”

Sheikh Mushtaq Ahmad, father of deputy mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation Sheikh Imran, said, “The food being served to them is not healthy. The rooms are not good. There is no proper matting. This is not the way to treat the elected representatives.”

Saqib Madni, son of another PDP leader Sartaj Madni, alleged that the family members of the leaders visiting the hostel were being harassed by police personnel.

“We are being unnecessarily harassed. They (politicians) are in jail and we accept it, but they are not allowing our vehicles inside. We are carrying certain items which these leaders need as there are no facilities. How will we shift these items like matting and heating appliances which we have to get ourselves?” he said.

“They (authorities) had a better option of putting them under house arrest like so many (other) leaders were. There are so many leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, but they have detained only about 30 here. They too should have been put under house arrest,” he said.

Most of the top-level and second rung mainstream politicians were detained on August 5, when the Centre abrogated the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and announced the decision to bifurcate it into two Union territories.

Two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — also continue to be in detention.

The government has detained former chief minister and sitting Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah, under the controversial Public Safety Act, a law enacted by his father and NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1978 when he was the chief minister.

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