Srinagar: Contrary to the statement made by J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, security forces continued to impose curbs on Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference, who remains confined to his Srinagar residence without charges.
But when The Wire attempted to meet Mirwaiz at his residence on Saturday afternoon, August 20, the police presence outside his home contradicted the LG’s statement.
The triple-storied, brick-and-stone residence is situated in the heart of Nigeen, an upscale locality flanked by Srinagar’s famed Dal and Nigeen lakes in the Hazratbal area, which is home to the University of Kashmir and the National Institute of Technology.
An imposing, double-framed gate fitted into a high brick wall separates the residence from the road. Outside the gate, more than a dozen police and paramilitary officers, some holding automatic rifles, stand in close proximity to each other.
“They don’t allow me to come out,” Mirwaiz told The Wire over the phone. “They (security officers) are right at the gate from the outside. However, the police van, which has remained deployed in front of the gate for the last three years, was pulled back in the morning and parked beside the wall.”
Outside the gate, a police official, an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) without a name tag, sat on a plastic chair, wearing sunglasses. Beneath the chair lay a freshly emptied Mountain Dew bottle.
Even before I could try walking past the gate, the masked ASI stopped me. “Where are you going?” asked the official, sternly. When I conveyed the purpose of my visit, he refused to allow me inside.
“You have to get the permission of DSP (deputy superintendent of police) saheb. Without his permission, no one is allowed to meet him (Mirwaiz),” he said.
I mentioned the interview in which the LG had stated that Mirwaiz was not under house arrest. The official seemed aware of Sinha’s statement.
“But this is the reality,” he said, pointing to the closed gate, “We have instructions to stop him (Mirwaiz) from coming out and also to prevent visitors from going inside. We are only doing our duty. If the government gives us a different order, we will follow it.”
The Wire made multiple phone calls and also texted the concerned DSP and additional DGP (Kashmir), Vijay Kumar, for their comment about the charges under which curbs have been imposed on Mirwaiz. This story will be updated if and when a response is received.
In the meantime, as our cameraperson continued filming the conversation, the ASI vacated the chair, leaving a bulletproof vest that served as a back cushion. Three to four policemen, all in civvies, who were hovering around the main gate, walked towards the ASI and joined the conversation.
“We don’t have any issue in allowing you to meet him,” said one official in civvies, who appeared to be in his thirties. “But we have to follow the orders. If the DSP saheb gives you permission, who are we to stop you?”
A third police official chipped in, “Some journalists had come in the morning also, but they too had to leave.”
Asked whether Mirwaiz has been allowed since August 4, 2019 – when he was put under detention at his residence, where he lives with his mother, wife and two children – the third official said, “There have been few such occasions when he had to come out due to a medical or other emergencies. Even then, he was accompanied by a police escort.”
Across the road, the eyes of paramilitary troopers, seemingly bored by the lack of action, keep a vigil as pedestrians walk by carelessly and policemen in civvies appear and disappear behind the gate, oblivious to the struggle of journalists asking for permission to meet the Mirwaiz who has been stopped from performing even his religious duties over the last three years.
In his interview, Sinha said that the security personnel deployed outside Mirwaiz’s residence are meant for his protection. “Even in 2019, the Mirwaiz wasn’t booked under PSA (Public Safety Act). He wasn’t kept in detention. If you go back, some incidents happened in the past, even the father of Umar Farooq was killed. We have kept policemen around him for his safety. He should decide what he wants,” Sinha said.
Reacting to the LG’s statement, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted:
The same way my colleagues were locked in their homes “for their own safety” for months on 4th Aug 2019 & the same way we get trucks parked outside our gates every once in a while because “inputs” suggest an attack on Gupkar road is imminent. https://t.co/AD4sS6S67J
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) August 19, 2022
Terming Sinha’s statement as a “blatant misrepresentation of facts,” the Hurriyat Conference on Friday said that the “denial of his (Mirwaiz’s) incarceration is unbelievable.”
“Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is under house detention for the past three years since August 2019. Mirwaiz for the last three years has forcibly not been allowed to come out of his house despite repeated appeals from all sections of people to the authorities, including religious leaders across the state,” a Hurriyat statement said.
Sajad Lone, who heads the Peoples Conference, tweeted: “I think L-G sahib needs to verify facts. His statements don’t reflect reality. May I humbly state that the tradition of locking up leaders and then denying is an old worn out tradition. It has been happening for the last three decades. (sic)”