A former Union Minister and Congress leader Saifuddin Soz created an uproar from his house in Srinagar on Thursday, where he claims he is under detention since 5 August 2019 when the Government of India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir (J-K).
On Wednesday, in Supreme Court, the J-K administration assured that Mr. Soz was neither in detention nor under house arrest. The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by his wife. The bench chose to dispose of the habeas petition on the basis of an affidavit filed by the J-K administration.
One year ago, all prominent mainstream politicians were either detained or kept under house arrest. Three former chief ministers — Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah, and Omar Abdullah — were slapped with the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA). While the Abdullahs have been released and also restarted the politics, Ms. Mufti continues to be under house detention in Srinagar.
The Kashmir Walla spoke to Mr. Soz over phone call about his continuous detention and the politics playing out in J-K. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Here are the excerpts:
TKW: Are you officially under detention?
Mr. Soz: [The administration] has said in front of the Supreme Court that I’m going to be a free man.
Police bigger than [Kashmir police] is sitting in New Delhi. Here, orders are given verbally. It means today’s rule acts undemocratically. When this will end, we can measure how much damage has been done to the system. For Indian democracy, it is not a good thing.
I’m in agreement with both the constitutions – Indian and Kashmiri. And I know it. I’ve knowledge about it. But the government of India and [the local] government walks on their own paths. There is not mainstream left here, they have damaged it as much as they can.
Even today, people are under house arrest. What can be a bigger tragedy for Indian democracy?
Tell us about your detention period.
I’m under detention and they don’t allow me to go out. It is a high handedness. It is undemocratic and unconstitutional. I’m a law-abiding citizen. I accept the constitution of India, and of Jammu and Kashmir. And I have not violated any rule or law, yet I’m detained at home.
The Government of India, and of Jammu and Kashmir, told lies in the Supreme Court, and [the court] should not have accepted those lies.
Is the police deployed at your residence to protect you or to detain you?
I am a protectee under the rules. It is not that I have put myself under protection. I’m a protectee by the very definition of the law. Whatever happened at my gate is undemocratic and unconstitutional.
I’ve been under detention since 5 August. Now rulers in Delhi say [that] we have abrogated Article-370 but people in Kashmir are angry. The entire mainstream was put either in jail or under house arrest. Now, the people can imagine if this a victory for the Government of India or the Prime Minister of India. The world knows what is what in Kashmir.
In your view, what is the fallout of the abrogation?
We have condemned that decision [to abrogate Article 370]. Article 370 explained our constitutional relationship with the Union of India. By abrogating it, they have cut the very roots of that relationship. Now people of Kashmir are angry [and] they are not even allowed to express their anger.
It doesn’t suit the Indian Union to sever constitutional relationships. The government of India, in the Centre, has very much tried to sabotage that constitutional relationship. In the future there will be time to assess the loss of the Union of India by abrogating Article 370.
Kashmiris are one, [be it] mainstream or separatists. Separatists have now weakened over time. Mainstream is the political class that is speaking on this proposition. No Kashmiri will accept the abrogation of Article 370. This was the cornerstone of our constitutional relationship with India. Now, we are before the power of the people and the Supreme Court.
What is your take on the demands for the restoration of statehood in the absence of Article 370?
Those who talk of a restoration of statehood are not serious about Kashmiri politics. Statehood is already there [on the table], even the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] wants that it should be restored. That was a mistake on part of the [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi [led] government and they will repent for it.
The thing is what have they given to the people of Jammu and Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370. If we don’t have Article 370, then give us an equivalence, a lawful proposition which will satisfy the people because the rest of India merged with the union but we did not. We [had] acceded to India.