Indian Government Turned Hotel into Jail for Kashmiri Politicians

Superficially it seemed as though the politicians were being held in luxury, but the reality was nightmarish.

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Superficially it seemed as though the politicians were being held in luxury, but the reality was nightmarish.

India transformed a luxury hotel into a jailhouse for three months last year to lock up powerful Kashmiri politicians, the Guardian has reported.

Around 50 senior politicians were arrested and then held in the Centaur Hotel in Kashmir in August of last year. They were reportedly held at the hotel, and afterwards a hostel, for six months without charge.

They were among thousands of people who were arrested last year following the Indian government’s decision to revoke Article 370, thereby removing the semi-autonomous status that Kashmir had benefited from since the 1940s.

Salman Sagar, a politician in Kashmir’s National Congress Party, was one of those arrested. He was released in February as the Indian government was only allowed to hold them for a maximum of six months. 

However, four of the most senior political leaders, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Ali Mohammad Sagar, and Sartaj Madni, are still being detained and have been charged under the Public Safety Act (PSA). Under the PSA, they can be held without trial for two years. 

Amnesty International has labelled the PSA as a “lawless law”, and said that Indian authorities have used the PSA to further human rights violations, including “detaining children… subjecting individuals to revolving-door detentions”, and “undermin[ing] the criminal justice system.”

According to a report by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, 412 people have been charged under the PSA from 5 August to 31 December 2019.

Detentions without trial have historically been weaponised in Kashmir against those deemed to be anti-India. However, in an unprecedented move, here it was also used against politicians who had been loyal to India. This added to the feeling of betrayal, according to one anonymous detainee.

“Humiliating” conditions

Sagar spoke about the difficult conditions faced by the detainees in the hotel. Superficially it seemed as though the politicians were being held in luxury, but the reality was nightmarish.

He said that there was no calm in the hotel, only discomfort. His freedom was restricted and he was only allowed out into the common areas for lunch and dinner.

Sagar went on to explain how he was refused leave to visit his sick grandfather, who died while Sagar was he was being held captive. 

Another anonymous political leader detained in the hotel-prison spoke of the “humiliation” of the detention. He went on to say:

There was a sense of defeat… I felt like a bird in a cage”.


The detentions have had their desired effect, as many are now unwilling to speak about their ordeal. Sagar and others have also been forced to sign a mandatory bond that they will not speak about the revocation of Article 370, and that they will not instigate dissent.

Kashmir has also been silenced in other ways. Since August last year, the government has imposed a crippling communications lockdown, which has not yet been totally lifted. Social media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter remain blocked, and now the police are clamping down on those attempting to bypass the restrictions.

However, some Kashmiris remain defiant. “They made us silent for six months…” commented Shoaib Rassol, a student. “We’ll tell the world what India has done to us.”

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