Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president Saifuddin Soz's US-returned son Salman Anees Soz is publicly rebelling against the Congress' decision to support the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and chief minister Omar Abdullah government's "abuse" of the Public Safety Act (PSA).
"The PSA has encroached on personal freedoms with impunity similar to that of the AFSPA. If it is the political leadership's belief that AFSPA should be wholly or partially removed because its continuation is unnecessary and contrary to public interest, then why can the same not apply to the PSA?" writes junior Soz in a column published in a largely circulated daily in Srinagar.
Talking to the Hindiustan Times, junior Soz said "he is well aware of reactions to the write-up" for being son of the former union minister, who is a close confidant of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
"I believe the PSA as well as the AFSPA are draconian in nature and infringes on the basic rights of people. J&K has become a police state," said Soz.
"There is sufficient evidence to indicate that the PSA is not good for safety, it is not good for public and, it is not good for Jammu and Kashmir in the 21st century," he added.
Junior Soz returned to the Valley last year. With an MBA from Yale University and a master's degree in economics from Northeastern University in the US, Soz worked at different position at the World Bank for 13 years.
He sees "hypocrisy" in the mainstream political parties approach to deal with the "draconian" laws. "The PSA can be repealed locally. What stops this government to do that? Why all political parties fail to come together and have a consensus on it?" he asked.
While the AFSPA provides impunity to the armed forces during the counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, the PSA allows police force to arrest people for two years without a trial.
"Most people arrested under the PSA is not law and order issues… The move to do away with these laws will help deal with the mistrust people have with the political class.
"As a citizen, I feel these laws are anti-democracy," said Soz, once a batch mate of chief minister Omar Abdullah at Srinagar's Burh Hall school.
An active social and political activist, Soz seems out to corner his own political space independent of his father's affiliations and leanings.
"People of Kashmir deserve respect in this lifetime and not next. The leaders here zoom around with full entourage and treat people like cattle. We should not be living like this. We need a fresh start," said sauve Soz.
Claiming that people in Kashmir live in an "inertia" and are "mired in sadness", junior Soz said, "I know my father's compulsions being part of the national party, which has its own take on issues. But like a son, I do take up these issues with him".
Excerpts of Soz's article
The government introduced the PSA in 1978 to act as a deterrent against timber smuggling…Two things are clear: first, the PSA has singularly failed to curb timber smuggling and, second, the PSA's history is replete with proven cases of abuse and yet to be investigated allegations of abuse.
In 2012, the government amended the PSA to improve it. Despite some improvements, the PSA remains fundamentally flawed. For a State brutalized by violence, especially Kashmir Valley, there can be no forward movement unless we abolish laws that create hurdles for the achievement of a dignified life.
A human rights report inferred that administrative detention "under the PSA was used in J&K to detain individuals for years at a time, without trial, depriving them of human rights protections otherwise applicable in Indian law". According to the report, the government carried out 8,000-20,000 administrative detention during two decades of militancy.