Independence Day is for Free People, I've Been Caged for Last 375 Days: Former Kashmir Legislator

Mohiuddin Mir (Image: News18)

Mohiuddin Mir (Image: News18)

Mohiuddin Mir has been ensconced in a National Conference party office in Pulwama for the past year after being forcibly bundled from his home in Muran a day before the Parliament abrogated Article 370 scrapping Jammu and Kashmir's special status.

Senior Kashmiri politician Mohiuddin Mir feels he has been tethered for the last year.

"What Independence Day? I have been in a cage for the last 375 days," said Mir, a former Jammu and Kashmir legislator from Pulwama when asked if he received an invite to participate in the Independence Day function on Saturday.

"Independence Day is for free people. Do you think I am free?" asked the 58-year-old.

Mir has been ensconced in a National Conference party office in Pulwama for the past year after he was forcibly bundled from his home in Muran. His personal and home security was withdrawn and the government vehicle confiscated a day before the Parliament watered down Article 370 of the Constitution.

To shut off any protest, the government rounded up many unionist leaders like Mir and hundreds of youths and detained them. While mainstream leaders were mostly put in hotels and government facilities in Kashmir, many young boys suspected to be chronic protesters were sent across various jails in the country.

"I have seen these houses in last year. My gaze doesn't go beyond this compound and surroundings," he said as he showed around the district party office building in Pulwama township.

A few cops manning the building gate, a part-time worker, a gardener are the people Mir has been mostly interacting with in the last one year of his forcible incarceration.

"No man is an Island but here I am, lonely and frustrated."

Mir said he is grateful to NC president Farooq Abdullah and deputy Omar Abdullah for allowing him to stay in the party building.

Though his family lives in Muran village, which is barely 3 km away from here, he has not been able to go there once.

The Jammu and Kashmir police, Mir said, told the leaders in clear terms that they won't be able to provide them security in militancy areas.

While many politicians in South Kashmir have shifted to 'secure' Srinagar, Jammu or Delhi, others like Mir have remained stranded in the same place.

"Where will I go. I have no house apart from one in Muran. Had leaders not allowed me to stay in this office, I would have been dead. The government wants us to go to dogs," he said.

Mir resents having to live like a refugee on his own land. He says he has to do all the work by himself and that includes getting grocery, cooking and cleaning.

"I have told my family not to visit me regularly because I don't want to put them in trouble. They met me briefly this Eid. I spent my days almost alone," he said, looking at the walls of his room where big blowups of three generations of Abdullahs are pasted.

Mir was forced into politics after his father, a National Conference veteran, was killed by militants in 1994.

In 1996, he was given a ticket and he won the Assembly elections from Rajpora constituency but lost in three successive attempts to make it to the Assembly. He survived dozens of militant attacks including two deadly ones in 2018 and 2019 when two of his personal security officers were killed.

Winning or losing did not matter to him until August of last year when he was hauled from his home and told to stay put.

"Police shifted me from my residence to this building at 2 am on August 3, 2019. Since then I am here."

The last one year has forced Mir to introspect and weigh the pros and cons of being a part of politics. He rues his decision of joining politics as it has made him vulnerable, homeless and immobilised.

"I have a family including small grandchildren but it is such a curse that we are not living under one roof."

"Had I been given security at home, I would not have faced this problem."

The last few years have not been good for mainstream politicians. Militants have been repeatedly targeting political workers. Mir's party has reportedly lost at least 3,000 workers followed by Congress and PDP. Over the last one month, militants have been increasingly targetting the BJP leaders. Five BJP leaders were recently killed in three separate districts. The killings have forced many BJP activists to publically quit politics.

The BJP top national leaders have asked government to review the security of their cadre.

Mir said till security is not provided to politicians, they won't be able to return to their homes and reunite with families. "It is a huge dilemma for people like me."

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