As Srinagar reeled under harsh winter conditions, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday shifted all 34 political prisoners, lodged at Centaur Hotel since August 5, to the MLA Hostel as the facility lacked proper heating arrangements, officials said. The winter chill took a toll on the health of the detenues -- National Conference, PDP and People's Conference leaders and prominent social activists -- and the security personnel guarding them.
They were lodged at the hotel on the bank of the scenic Dal Lake on August 5 when the central government announced its decision to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and split the state into two Union territories.
Kashmir Valley, including Srinagar City, was reeling under winter chill and witnessed the season's first snowfall earlier this month. The seat of administration in the newly created Union territory has moved from Srinagar to Jammu for the winter months.
The administration carried out required modification of rooms in the MLA Hostel on Maulana Azad Road in the heart of the city to accommodate the political prisoners. It has been declared as a subsidiary jail by an order of the Jammu and Kashmir home department. Among the political prisoners are Sajjad Lone of People's Conference (PC), Ali Mohammad Sagar of National Conference (NC), Naem Akhtar of the PDP and former IAS officer Shah Faesal.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was on Friday shifted to a government accommodation in the city from a tourist hut located at the foothills of Zaberwan range, officials said. The move was necessitated as the approaching winters and frequent power cuts made it difficult to stay in the hut which was converted into a jail after she was detained on August 5 this year.
According to the officials privy to the development, Centaur Hotel, owned by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), has submitted a bill of nearly Rs 3 crore to the home department for over 100 days of boarding and lodging of the detenues.
The administration has, however, rejected the claims of Centaur Hotel and argued that the facility was converted into a subsidiary jail on August 5 and therefore, government rates would be paid. The rates sanctioned by the administration would be around Rs 800 per day as against Rs 5,000 charged by the hotel, the officials said.