Sajad freed, party says can’t go out; Mufti’s detention extended

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Written by Naveed Iqbal
| Srinagar |

Updated: August 1, 2020 7: 40: 42 am





Sajad freed, party says can’t go out; Mufti’s detention extended People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone after his release from house arrest, in Srinagar on Friday. (Express photo)

Nearly a year after he was detained amidst a clampdown on the political leadership in Jammu and Kashmir at the time of the abrogation of Article 370, People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone was on Friday officially “released” from house arrest. However, he has been told not to step out or speak to the media.

As soon as his release was announced, Lone took to Twitter to say, “Finally 5 days short of a year I have been officially informed that I am a free man. So much has changed. So have I. Jail was not a new experience. Earlier ones were harsh with usual doses of physical torture. But this was psychologically draining. Much to share hopefully soon.”

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Around 1.15 pm, authorities conveyed to Lone that he was no longer under detention. Two hours later, when he tried to step out of his Church Lane, Srinagar, residence, sources in the party said, “it was verbally conveyed to him that he cannot address the media or step out of his house till August 5”. Members of the People’s Conference, including party general secretary Imran Ansari, were, however, allowed to meet Lone.

The government spokesperson, Rohit Kansal, could not be reached for a comment.

Ansari told The Indian Express, “This is a happy moment. We were not expecting the news of the release.” He added, “We prefer that he (Lone) make his own statements, and that will happen after August 5.”

People’s Conference spokesperson Adnan Ashraf said, “It is a happy moment for our workers and supporters who were eagerly waiting for his release.”

Just as the special status of J&K was strapped on August 5 last year, Lone was picked up and put under detention at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre along with 30 senior party leaders from different political parties. He was then moved to Srinagar’s MLA hostel and, finally, in February, put under house arrest.

Welcoming Lone’s release, former chief minister Omar Abdullah, who was released from detention in March, said, “I hope others under similar illegal detention will also be released without delay.”

While Abdul Gani Vakil now remains the sole People’s Conference party leader still confined, several members of the National Conference and other parties continue to be under detention at their homes. On July 13, the NC filed a petition in the J&K High Court seeking release of 16 of its members.

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