File photo of People's Conference leader Sajad Lone (centre) | jkpc.in/Facebook
File photo of People's Conference leader Sajad Lone (centre) | jkpc.in | Facebook
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Srinagar: Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone was released from ‘house arrest’ Friday after being detained for almost a year, but he cannot leave his residence until 5 August.

Lone announced his release on Twitter, which he had used last time in August 2019.

“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,” tweeted Lone.

But Adnan Ashraf, spokesperson of the Peoples Conference, said after Lone posted the tweet, he was informed that he can’t leave his residence until 5 August.

“The media persons were also not allowed to enter (Lone’s residence),” added Ashraf. 

ThePrint called Lone for a comment on the matter, but he didn’t respond.

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J&K administration spokesperson Rohit Kansal also did not respond to calls made by ThePrint.

Lone, who was part of the PDP-BJP alliance government and served as a cabinet minister, was detained along with scores of other politicians ahead of the scrapping of Article 370 last August. 

He was detained first at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) and kept there until November, following which he was taken to Srinagar’s MLA hostel, which has been designated as a sub-jail. 

The shift was done due to inadequate infrastructure at the SKICC to deal with the extremely harsh winter season. 

But at the MLA hostel, Lone had a scuffle with the security personnel posted there over frisking. He had alleged harassment by the security personnel in the name of frisking. 

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who spent more than 230 days in detention and was booked under the controversial Public Safety Act, was among the first politicians to congratulate Lone on his release.

“Good to hear that Sajad Lone has been released from illegal house arrest. I hope others under similar illegal detention will also be released without delay,” Abdullah wrote.


Also read: Why are Kashmiri politicians still in detention when other restrictions have been lifted?


Soz controversy

The development comes in the backdrop of a raging controversy surrounding the status of senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz.

A video report by NDTV showed Soz at his home, allegedly not allowed to move out of his residence where he has been under “detention” for over 10 months. But the J&K administration said it doesn’t have any formal detention order issued against Soz.

Responding to a petition filed by Soz’s wife challenging his ‘house arrest’, the J&K administration in the Supreme Court had claimed that the veteran politician was “never detained nor under house arrest” and there were “no restrictions on his movement subject to security clearance”.

Soz had told ThePrint that the administration was lying to the top court. 

“The J&K administration presented an affidavit where they say I am not detained. It is a white lie. They (administration) have the courage to speak the untruth in the highest court of India,” Soz told ThePrint over the phone Thursday.

Kansal, however, tweeted Thursday that Soz is “free to go wherever he likes”.

“Mr Saiffudin Soz former MP and Minister not under arrest or detention. He has been to Delhi twice- in October and December. Free to go wherever he likes with usual security drill. No question of lying in Hon SC @diprjk,” he wrote.

A source in the administration said the matter has been discussed by top officials, who were left red-faced after the controversy surrounding Soz and perhaps to avoid similar situations, the administration might be lifting “informal orders” issued to security guards to prevent political leaders from leaving their homes.


Also read: Not given up Article 370 fight but illogical to ask Modi govt to restore it — Omar Abdullah


 

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