Some in the Muslim-majority region have been detained without trial for over a year
Saifuddin soz is not under house arrest; he is just not allowed to leave his home. Now 82 years old, he once represented the northern Kashmir valley in the national parliament in Delhi. He spent five years as a minister in the government of Manmohan Singh, the prime minister who preceded the present one, Narendra Modi. Since August 5th, 2019, the day parliament deprived Jammu & Kashmir of its statehood at Mr Modi’s behest, the police have forced Mr Soz to remain in his home. “You are under house arrest,” they told him. His family petitioned the courts for his release, since he has not been charged with any crime, much less convicted. But the Supreme Court dismissed the request, since the authorities had informed the honourable justices that Mr Soz was “never detained nor under house arrest”. When local journalists went to Mr Soz’s home to get his reaction to the happy news, he tried to speak to them over the fence—until uniformed soldiers pulled him away.
The government’s blatant lying to the court (which is otherwise prickly about what it considers contempt) gives a sense of how far it is willing to go to have its way in Kashmir and how little it cares about abusing the rights of even the great and the good in the process. The state’s peculiarities have long angered the Hindu nationalists of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp). They see it as an affront that Pakistan, which like India claims all of the former British protectorate, seized part of it in 1947. Worse, the Muslim majority in the Indian part has long chafed under Indian rule, prompting frequent popular protests and an endless insurgency. Most infuriating of all, in spite of their ingratitude, the 12m people of Jammu & Kashmir, including some 7m Muslims in the Kashmir valley, used to benefit—until last year—from a special form of autonomy accorded to no other state in India.