A day after the Supreme Court disposed of a petition by Saifuddin Soz’s wife over his “illegal detention”, accepting the government’s submission that he was under no restrictions, the J&K Congress leader was stopped by the police as he tried to move out of his house in Srinagar. As mediapersons watched, police personnel pulled away the 83-year-old as he talked from behind a wall, mounted by a barbed wire, around his house.
On Wednesday too, soon after the Supreme Court accepted the J&K administration’s claim that he was not under detention, Soz had said he had been stopped from leaving his house.
“What the Supreme Court was told is a blatant lie,” Soz said on Thursday, speaking to The Indian Express over the phone, adding that he would again move the court against his “illegal” detention, “for whatever it’s worth”. “This (UT) government and the Central government took a position before the Supreme Court that I am a free man. I am not a free man. I have been under detention since August 5, 2019. If I am not under detention, why am I being stopped? I tried to move out twice yesterday and twice today.”
After stopping the former Union minister from talking to the media present outside his house, the policemen told the journalists to leave. The Congress leader could be heard telling the police repeatedly to keep their hands off him.
“Today, everybody saw that the police didn’t allow me to get out of my house,” Soz said. “They tried to physically stop me.”
Soz asked the Supreme Court to investigate the assertions made by the government before it. “It is for the Supreme Court to investigate why lies were put forth in the courtroom. It is also shameful that instead of grilling the government, a section of the press, whose interests are promoted by the Central government, said that my wife was lying.”
The former Congress J&K president said the irony was that there were no written orders in his case. “When I was detained, there was nothing in writing. When I ask the policemen, they say they have got verbal orders. The problem is that in this government — I am talking about Delhi — everything works verbally, a lot of things work only verbally. Where are civil liberties in this government?”
The J&K government reiterated on Thursday that Soz was not under detention. Spokesperson Rohit Kansal tweeted: “(He is) Free to go wherever he likes with usual security drill. No question of lying in Hon SC.”
In its affidavit before the Supreme Court, the J&K administration had cited the three times Soz had travelled to New Delhi since August 2019 as proof that he was not detained. Soz said he had made those trips for medical reasons. “I once accompanied my wife and twice I obtained permission (from the police) to consult a doctor (in Delhi). The dates are available, the prescriptions are available.”
About the government’s claims that he was allowed to move out for “personal, political and official assignments”, with security that he was entitled to and on government-provided vehicles, Soz said, “They are lying through their teeth. On August 5, 2019, they withdrew my personal security and vehicles. So how would I go out in a government vehicle? Yes, I made a personal visit to my ailing sister, but that was after proper police permission. I have no official assignments and I haven’t gone out for any political activity. In fact, there was no room for any political activity.”
National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah tweeted on Thursday: “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.”
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti also reacted to the government’s claims regarding Soz, with her daughter Iltija Mufti tweeting on her behalf: “Sad to see Saifuddin sahab get manhandled by police for speaking to media. I faced the same situation in Jan when I tried to address media at my house in Srinagar.”