For most of his political career, Prof Saifuddin Soz has been in the parliament. Recently, he was in the news after the guards stationed at his house refused to let him out soon after the government had told Supreme Court that he was a free man. The video of the cops manhandling Soz has gone viral. In an interview, Soz tells Syed Samreen that he would wait for the restoration of rights rather than the statehood.
Prof Saifuddin SozKASHMIR LIFE (KL): Since when are you locked up? Are you still in detention?
PROF SAIFUDDIN SOZ (PSS): On August 5, 2019, as a part of my routine I went towards the gate and wanted to see my daughter who lives in the neighbourhood. The head guard at the gate told me that I cannot go out because I have been put under house arrest. I asked him in good faith whether there was an order of my detention. He said no. He said that during the night, a senior officer had come to them and told them that I have been put under house arrest.
Here, everything is carried on by the word of mouth, there was no order at all.
The government of India and this government is telling lies before the Supreme Court about me being a free citizen.
The IAS officers here speak untruths. The Indian Administrative Services (IAS) were instituted by Jawaharlal Nehru with high hopes that the officers will serve to build a modern, democratic and pluralistic India. But when the top officers go berserk, others follow. Since that day till today’s date, I’ve been in detention.
KL: Have you taken any legal course of action to address your detention?
PSS: Around May 15, I wrote to Shaleen Kabra, principal Secretary Home. It was on the behalf of a citizen. I told him that I respect the Constitution of India. I told him that civil liberties are enshrined in the constitution and now, how come they don’t accept civil liberties? This is pure disrespect to the constitution.
I wrote to him that we, the mainstream politicians, are law-abiding people and want a democratic process, a dialogue with the centre for which the government is not prepared. That letter was sent to Kabra via email but as a routine, he didn’t answer. Because they don’t feel that they are answerable to the people of Kashmir. They have always operated in a vacuum. The government of India isn’t in touch with us or with anyone in the mainstream.
After he didn’t respond, I ignored it.
Later, my friend P Chidambaram and Abhishek Singhvi, decided that they go to the court along with my wife. The first lie that the court said was that ‘Soz is an independent man.’
Overall, I got a lot of support from everywhere but I believed that what was happening to me was happening with every other Kashmiri. This was a source of anxiety for me.
The central government and the Jammu and Kashmir administration goes on telling falsehoods to the Supreme Court. I should have been invited to the court if the SC didn’t believe in lies.
I am somehow proud of India’s press. Some newspapers like The Telegraph and Deccan Herald recently carried out my news story about being in detention and not being a free man.
KL: You have been a senior Congress leader but we didn’t see many people from your party going against your detention?
PSS: Rahul Gandhi tweeted some time ago about my detention and said that it’s disrespectful of India’s tradition and the constitution that Saifuddin Soz is under detention without any written order or trial. In individual capacities, P Chidambaram and Abhishek Singhvi have been my supporters.
KL: How do you spend your time?
PSS: Recently, I had gone out to talk to two senior journalists and tell them about my continued detention. After that, I was manhandled by a guard. But at the same time, I couldn’t shout at these poor people. I am a law-abiding person. I am aware that these people get orders from higher authorities.
Anyone can be arrested in Kashmir put in jail, there will be no FIR, no reason at all.
I have taken to reading and writing, I have a library. I sit there and pass my time. During this period, I made my PA read to me and show me various videos. I am carrying out some research as well. I devoted most of the time to my people and their history. I say that we shall continue our struggle. We are prepared for a democratic, systematic, smooth, peaceful and non-violent struggle.
KL:- When did you come to know about the abrogation of Article 370? What is your stance on that?
PSS: I would go to Humhama Chowk that day if I was not detained. I would address a little crowd and cry a little. I would seek permission to go out, would not violate any law but I wasn’t allowed to go out.
Kashmiris have to fight. When we say the restoration of the state, I feel a pain in my heart. We don’t want restoration of the state, let us remain a Union Territory only but we ought to be given rights.
We did not merge with India, we acceded to India. All other states merged, but Kashmir did not. The very title of that accession is our internal autonomy enshrined in the constitution under the provision of Article 370. We shall fight for the restoration of Article 370. That’s our possession.
KL: Would you like to say anything on the current scenario?
PSS: Indian democracy has fallen so low that the Constitution of India is not being honoured by the rulers. What can we people do about this? This is tragic. On this date, I have seen that the Union of India doesn’t allow democracy. This is the predominant idea in my mind.
The system is totally rotten.
Why is there terrorism? Because they don’t allow people to express dissent, to hold a peaceful procession, to lodge a protest peacefully and democratically.
In a way, the Government of India has inadvertently internationalised the Kashmir issue after the revocation of Article 370. They had thought of it solely as an internal matter but now see how people all over the world and the United Nations functionaries talk about the strife in Kashmir.