Clipped Wings

In Kashmir, contrary to the government’s claims of doing their best to integrate Kashmiri people with the mainland, the ground reality still remains unchanged. There are still thousands of people, in the valley, who are being denied security clearances for passport on bogey charges.

Twenty four year old, Barket Ullah Shan works as a chef in Bangalore. He wants to move outside the country for a better job. To move out, he needs a passport which he is being denied by the authorities in the valley because of his uncle who died nine years ago. Barket was only fifteen when his uncle, an alleged militant of Hizbul Mijahideen, was killed in a gun battle with the army in the valley in 2004.

Barket hails from Kilam, a small village in district Kulgam of South Kashmir. After studying Hotel Management from Srinagar, Barket got a job and moved to Bangalore. He has been there for over a year now. Back home in the valley, Barket has four sisters and a younger brother, who live with their parents. His father works as a carpenter, the only other source of family income. Barket says that he wants to work overseas for sometime and earn money for his sisters’ marriage and to start something of his own in Kashmir. “Here, I only get 10,000 rupees per month and my father doesn’t earn much either. It has not been easy for my family. I just want to live a normal life. I have done nothing wrong to be treated like this,” he adds.

Having applied for the passport in March, 2012 under file number A01399, for months Barket didn’t receive any feedback from the authorities. It was only when he returned home and started enquiring about his application, he was summoned to the local police station where they told him that he is not getting the requisite security clearance from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) because of his uncle’s past involvements. Since then, Barket has been to the CID office in Kulgam and Srinagar more than just a few times. He even wrote to the CID headquarters in Jammu trying to explain his situation. But till date, his postulation have bore no fruit.

However, he is not alone in this, a report of 2007 says that the state government had a security index –a blacklist prepared by the state police intelligence wing –of 60,000 Kashmiri families who are not to be issued passports. The names figured in that list are mostly of people who had links with militants or separatists or so did have their kin. Recently, even the state’s Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah acknowledged such a list exists.

“All this has created a social problem in the valley; students who want to study abroad or those who want to work outside the country simply cannot. Just because they somehow have been dragged in this dreaded list. It is undemocratic,” explains Parvez Imroz, a prominent Human rights activist and Lawyer in the valley. He says, “There are still about 45,000 families who are being denied passports. I myself had applied for passport in 2004 but still I have not been issued the same.”

Barket feels frustrated and deeply disappointed for the lost opportunities. He has worked really hard to get here, “I used to work part time to pay my college fees because my father was not in position to afford my education and feed the family at the same time.”

Surprisingly however, the majority of the separatist leaders, including several former top militant commanders receive special waivers to travel overseas. They are even provided with requisite security clearances that haunt thousands of innocent people in the valley who have no past involvement in any violence related activity. Having endured the pains of past two decades of conflict that left no life untouched in the valley; not much has changed for people like Barket, who still face this grave injustice.

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