The picture of senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz trying to make himself heard from behind a high wall, covered with barbed wire at his house in Srinagar, went viral on Thursday. The 82-year-old was then seen being pulled away ostensibly by a security personnel in plainclothes.
Talking to Outlook on the phone from Srinagar on Friday, Soz says he doesn’t have anything against the policeman. “He just pulled me away. It could have been worse had I resisted. The police in Jammu and Kashmir have their orders—nothing in writing—not to let us go out. The policemen are also trapped.”
While the former union minister is willing to make concessions for the state police, he fails to understand why the Supreme Court accepted the “white lies” told by the government that he was under “no restrictions''. The Jammu and Kashmir administration, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court on July 29, said that Soz was “never detained nor under house arrest" and there are "no restrictions on his movement subject to security clearance”. The government's affidavit came in response to a petition by Soz's wife, seeking her husband's release from “illegal detention” and to be brought before the court.
Soz tells Outlook he is not sure about his next course of action. “If the Supreme Court accepts a falsehood from the government, what resort does a person like me have? Why should the highest court in the country be comfortable with the untruth? The Supreme Court should assert itself. It can call me to appear before the court and ask me the truth. It can institute a one-day temporary enquiry to find out whether I am under house arrest or not,” he says.
Ever since Article 370 was revoked on August 5, 2019, all mainstream leaders were either jailed or put under house arrest, he adds. “I am a law-abiding citizen. I have been a union minister twice. What law have I broken that I am a threat, and restrictions need to be placed on my movements,” questions Soz.
The apex court, according to him, should assure itself beyond any doubt whether he is a free man or not. “A senior IAS officer can blatantly lie and say that I am free to go where I like. If the administration lies and the Supreme Court accepts it, people will lose faith in the judiciary. In such a scenario, only God can save the country,” he asserts.
As of now, Soz says, he has reached out to Altaf Bukhari of Apni Party. “I hear that his party is acceptable to the Centre. So, he can be the bridge between the Centre and the state. He is a decent man. Maybe if he helps open a dialogue between the Centre and the civil society in J&K, the suffocation in the system can be eased,” the octogenarian leader says.
“People of Jammu and Kashmir may be suffocated and suppressed for some time but they will speak out. The voice of the people will not only reach in the entire country but also across the world,” Soz adds.