On 15th May, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, stated…
India continues denying Kashmiris of their fundamental right to travel and movement
On 7th April, the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police made use of the Official Secrets Act in its “verification report” on Kashmiri politician Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti, who has been issued a conditional passport. In a report by the The Wire, it states that in its response to a petition filed by Iltija in the J&K high court, the Regional Passport Officer in Srinagar said that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of J&K Police “does not favor issuance of passport” to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief’s daughter.
Furthermore, the CID has issued its report on Iltija’s case as a ‘top secret, and as a result, it will not be made public under the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, a colonial-era law which has been weaponized by the Indian government to maintain secrecy in matters of state-sanctioned human rights violations.
The passport issued to Iltija by the regional passport officer on April 5 was “for UAE only” with a two-year validity, even though an ordinary passport has 10-year validity. While speaking to journalists, Iltija stated that the CID was playing a “dirty role” in J&K following the reading down of Article 370 in 2019. “Some CID officers are bringing disgrace and disrepute to their office by lying in the court and harassing people. Like the Gestapo police in Nazi Germany which was tasked to harass and persecute Jews, CID is similarly working to crush and persecute Kashmiris,” she stated.
Iltija, who joined active politics following the abrogation of Article 370, maintains that she and her family were being targeted for dissenting against the policies of the Hindu nationalist Indian government. Her grandmother – Mehbooba’s mother Gulshan Mufti – was also denied a passport for three years but she was issued one this year following court’s intervention.
The case of Iltija, however, is not unique in Kashmir. India has for long denied Kashmiri activists, politicians, leaders, and human rights defenders, the right to movement and travel. This takes many forms. While some have been denied the passport outright, in the name of national security, others have been issued conditional passports in the name of national interest.The families of pro-self determination Kashmiri leadership have been systematically deprived of passports, due to their relationship with pro-freedom activists.
On July 31, 2021, J&K authorities had issued a circular asking to withhold security clearance to individuals involved in “anti-national activities.” Amod Ashok Nagpure, Senior Superintendent of J&K Police, CID, gave the Special Branch (SB) field units in Kashmir the go-ahead to “specifically” investigate “law and order,” “stone pelting,” and other charges before granting clearance to subjects who have applied for government employment or a passport. India has for long characterized as “anti-national” any act, speech, or thought that advocates for Kashmir’s right to self-determination or condemns the pervasive human rights violations. This has led to journalists like Fahad Shah, human rights defenders like Khurram Parvez being jailed for “anti-national” activities.
Responding to the travel bans on journalists and others in Kashmir, Amnesty International had said in 2022 that they have increasingly become “the principal tactic of the Indian authorities to silence independent and critical voices in the country.”