Muftis' Long Battle For Passport Continues In Jammu And Kashmir

Former J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's daughter Iltija Mufti was also denied a passport. However, after she pursued the case in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, in April this year she was issued a conditional passport by the authorities in Srinagar.

Mehbooba Mufti addresses press

As former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was issued a passport following a three-year-long legal battle, it has brought the focus back on the withholding of passports in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The fact that we are discussing a passport that wasn’t released for three years of a former chief minister and mainstream Kashmiri politician symbolises the prevailing situation in Kashmir,” says Iltija Mufti, daughter of Mehbooba Mufti.

“When a simple but fundamental right that is the right to travel is suspended so arbitrarily and brazenly, does one need to even answer any questions about the sense of siege in Kashmir since 2019,” says Iltija.

“We could afford to fight it out in court but what about those who are too scared to pursue it legally or lack the wherewithal,” she says.

Iltija Mufti was also denied a passport. However, after she pursued the case in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, in April this year she was issued a conditional passport by the authorities in Srinagar. The passport has been issued on the grounds that she would be pursuing her studies abroad.

Against the normal procedure of ten years, her passport is valid for only two years.

The passport of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti expired in 2019, the year the BJP government abrogated Article 370 amid an unprecedented communication blackout and arrest of thousands of people including the former CM. Mehbooba Mufti was initially booked under Section 107 CrPC for six months and later booked under the Public Safety Act along with other former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah. In October 2020, Mehbooba Mufti was released after 14 months of detention after the Jammu and Kashmir administration revoked the Public Safety Act against her.

In 2020, after her release, she applied for the renewal of her passport. However, her passport along with her mother Gulshan Nazir was denied a renewal owing to an adverse report by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). They were planning to go for a religious pilgrimage to Mecca.

In February this year, the 80-year-old mother of Mehbooba Mufti received a passport after the J&K High Court passed fresh directions to the Passport Officer.

Mehbooba Mufti then moved the Delhi High Court. In March this year, the Delhi High Court ordered the passport authority to decide within three months on issuing a fresh travel document to Mehbooba Mufti.

In April 2023, the Criminal Investigation Department of J&K police said the police has given free clearances for passports for more than 99 per cent who are ‘clean and green’ after Iltija Mufti accused the department of withholding passports of people and blacklisting journalists, politicians and activists for travelling abroad.

“J&K Police is committed to speedy and hassle-free clearances for more than 99% who are ‘clean and green’ and a professional filtering of those who should be prevented from availing the service - some in their own interest and others in the interest of the public,” the Criminal Investigation Department said in a rare statement.

“They don't tell you that verification is stalled in countless cases. Not just passports but verification reports for government jobs and transfers too. Their statistic of one per cent. Please explain this much. Out of four of us in my immediate family, three of us were denied passports. So if this is average for a mainstream politician what must they be doing to others,” Iltija Mufti asks.

“In fact in my case, the CID invoked the Official Secrets Act and yet they refuse to share the adverse report with me! So how it is one per cent when in my own family, the majority of us didn’t get a passport for years?

“Even if one were to assume they have rejected just one per cent, what reason do they have for depriving that one per cent of Kashmiris of their passports?" Iltija asks. 

“The fact that I had to hold a press conference for something as basic as a passport leaves nothing to be discussed,” she says. “My case is still in the court,” she adds.