Author: Saadut
•7:01 PM

“I want to grow, I want to study and make a carrier but I have been unable to move out of this cadge. My passport application is pending for disposal for the last 2 years and I don’t see much hope” says Mohammad Bilal an IT professional from North Kashmir. He is not the only one who has been desperately trying for a passport in Kashmir; there are many others who have been waiting years together for their passports. Applications of many may have been out rightly rejected while others are just ‘under processes’. Getting a passport in Kashmir is viewed as nothing short of a miracle. Often these passports are denied or delayed unending on flimsy grounds. Take the case of Mohammad Bilal where his CID report has been adverse because ‘one of his cousins passed over to Pakistan many years back’. The cousin may not even be the immediate kin of the applicant, but that has been reason enough used to stop him issuance of a passport. At the receiving end of the ‘denial of passport policy’ are common people who find it tough to wade through the innumerable departments involved in the pre issuance checks, often the multiple agencies involved in these checks find one reason or other to create a red line for passport issuance. 

A 52 year old business man of North Kashmir Baramulla, Mohammad Maqbool Tantray claims to have applied for a passport three times, denied each time. The CID refuses to clear him as one of his cousin Ghulam-u-din died in an encounter with the Army in 1999. Mohammad Maqbool says that ‘even though I am not even remotely connected to militancy” the concerned department refuses to clear him.

The levels of scrutiny for Kashmir’s are multifold. Passport applicants have to clear at least four security agencies / levels in Kashmir: the CID, CIK (Counter Intelligence Kashmir), SBK (Special Branch Kashmir) and of course the local police station. Such a process takes months and in many instances cases have been awaiting clearance for years. Compound with this the fact that owing to the annual ‘Darbar Move’ where in government offices shift to Jammu every six months the CID main office also shifts for six months to Jammu, making accessibility to this office and any redressal hopes for local Kashmiri’s difficult for almost half a year. But it seems only common Kashmiris have to bear the brunt of the seemingly endless trail of a passport, most of the separatist leaders have been issued passport, who have been travelling abroad frequently without any hindrance.

Strangely enough such scrutiny and time delays are also practiced for passport applications of infants, kids or 80 year old senior citizens. As a passport applicant put it “nobody in Kashmir is outside the ambit of mistrust”. Even passports of infants may take months or more and subject to the same verification levels that adults have to go through. Verification would not have been a problem for most Kashmiri’s but the process is so slow and full of hurdles that it most cases applicants have lost hope. In many cases people who were arrested and later acquitted have also been denied a passport in Kashmir. The J&K high court in October 2009 passed a land mark judgment holding that an acquitted person has the right to hold a passport. Cheif Minister Omar Abdullah is on record to have stated in the State Legislative Assembly (March 2011) that “"When separatist leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq can get passport to visit outside the country, why not the kin of militants”. This statement has however not been able to translate into much action on the ground.

In Kashmir even some supporters of main stream pro Indian parties face difficulties in obtaining a passport. A middle rung leader of a pro India political party applied for passport in 2002 and even after 8 years his passport was yet to be issued. His crime is brother Noor-ud-Din Malik had migrated to Pakistan after the 1947 partition along with his uncle. While as all partition and post partition migrants may have been assimilated in both these countries, the kith in Kashmir continue to suffer state mistrust.

Basharat Baba a budding footballer of Kashmir was born in turmoil hit Kashmir. Father Bashir Ahmed Baba joined militant ranks when Basharat was 2 months old. Bashir later came out of militancy and served a jail sentence.  The foot ball talent of Basharat was identified young and groomed by Argentinean citizen Juan Marcos Troia, a FIFA-accredited football coach. Juan Marcos runs a football academy called the International Sports Academy Trust, and an exchange programme to Brazil for his most talented players. Basharat was soon chosen to travel to Brazil, where he would play with reputed clubs and develop his football carrier. However he was soon denied a passport because of his father’s past association with militants for which his father had already served jail. After the matter was highlighted by media CM Omar Abdullah promised help, but inspite of the assured help the passport came only too late. Basharat got a passport 18 months after CM Omar Abdullah had intervened and by then it was already too late for him to join the Brazilian clubs. Basharat was grounded even before takeoff, his carrier bought to naught. Stories like Basharat and Mohammad Bilal abound in Kashmir. In fact film director Ashvin Kumar was so moved by Basharat’s story that he made an award winning movie ‘InshaAllah Football’. The film has been critically acclaimed and won a ‘Special Jury Distinction prize’ at the Dubai International Film Festival. Director Ashvin Kumar’s earlier film “Little Terrorist” was nominated for an Oscar in the Live Action Short category.

Youngsters like Basharat have grown in a mayhem consumed Kashmir; their childhood has been devoid of opportunities available in other places. If they are not allowed to grow and venture out, where will their energies and dreams channel out to in desperation? Containment will result in nothing but bitterness and delusions.

The Passport is their only hope to move out, learn and grow.

August 2011
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