Congress leader Saifuddin Soz, 82, on Thursday said he has been under detention since August last year when Jammu & Kashmir was divested of its special status and accused the Union Territory administration of lying to the Supreme Court on Wednesday that he was “never detained nor under house arrest”. The court on Wednesday closed a habeas corpus petition filed by Soz’s wife after the administration assured it he was not under detention.
“I am [under] house arrest since August 5, 2019, and today [Thursday] press people came and they saw police not allowing me to go out…they [administration] shamelessly told the SC [Supreme Court] that I was a free man. It is so tragic. The SC must feel the necessity of asking the central government why it was told lies…My lawyer will approach a court here about how a lie was told in the Supreme Court,” Soz told HT over phone.
Soz, who is a five-time member of Parliament and a former Union minister, said this after a video went viral on social media showing security personnel pulling him away from the boundary wall of his Srinagar house when he was speaking to journalists. Soon after, Soz, who can’t be seen any longer, is heard telling the person who pulled him away not to touch him.
Soz added he has over the last year left his house to visit his ailing sister and to travel to Delhi in September and December for treatment. “Whenever I went out of my premises since August 5, 2019, I had to obtain permission from the government,” he said. He added additional security personnel had been deployed at his house. “I asked one of them ‘how can he touch me. This is my house and you go out’. Look at the high-handedness of that policeman; he was in civvies and I did not know him. But what can the Kashmir police do, they are also under pressure.”
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Hundreds of people, including three former chief ministers, were detained in August last year as part of measures to prevent protests against the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 that ended Jammu & Kashmir’s special status. A communications blackout and a lockdown were imposed but most of the restrictions have since been eased even as the mobile internet remains restricted. Two former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were released in March while Mehbooba Mufti remains under detention.
Jammu & Kashmir lieutenant governor GC Murmu did not respond to questions about Soz’s detention.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s spokesperson and principal secretary, Rohit Kansal, reiterated the government’s stand that Soz was never under detention or arrest. “…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,” Kansal posted on Twitter.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted Soz’s video and hit out at the government over the former Union minister’s illegal detention. “The illegal detention of political leaders with absolutely no basis damages the fabric of our nation. Mr Soz must be released at once.”
Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor, too, shared the video and termed Soz’s treatment a “national disgrace”.
Omar Abdullah said 15 leaders of his National Conference were also illegally detained like Soz. “Soz Sahib’s plight is not unique. @JKNC_has gone to court because more than 15 of our colleagues are similarly illegally detained & I have no doubt the administration will claim they aren’t detained…”
Mufti’s daughter, Iltija Mufti, said Soz was manhandled for speaking to media. “I faced the same situation in January when I tried to address media at my house in Srinagar.”
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Anil Gupta questioned the video’s authenticity and added if the administration has said Soz is not under detention, then he is free. “Soz is playing the victim card to gain sympathy.’’