Kashmir girl denied passport as her uncle was former militant

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A 15-year-old student here could not go to the United States for a youth exchange and study programme as the Omar Abdullah government did not issue her passport clearance. The reason: her uncle was a militant.

“Officials at the CID office in Srinagar told my relatives that my passport clearance could not be issued for, my uncle Farooq Ahmad Ganai had been a militant till 1995,” Sufaira Jan of Beerwah said. “I didn’t know till the other day that Farooq uncle had been a militant. Now, I am told that he surrendered in 1995. [But] I was born [only] on October 30, 1997 — two years after his surrender,” Sufaira told The Hindu. Her father Nazir Ganai died when she was four and she has been at a charity’s boarding school for 11 years.

An assurance from the government on Monday that her passport verification process would be speeded up has come late.

Sufaira was admitted to the Banaat Institute of Education, run by an orphanage, Gulshan-e-Banaat, at Wathora, in 2002. Both are subsidiaries of the Jammu and Kashmir Yateem Trust (JKYT). “Farooq uncle has been living a peaceful life since my birth and even before, I’m told. I fail to understand why should I suffer for his being a militant before I was born?” she asked.

“This is strange. Even if her uncle is an active militant, how could the government stop her passport. The Chief Minister has said several times in the Assembly that A shall not suffer for B’s involvement. I heard him say emphatically that no relatives of militants would suffer in getting clearance for passport or government job for the others’ involvement,” said JKYT promoter Zahoor Ahmad Tak.

Earlier this year, Sufaira cracked a series of online examinations and qualified in all tests for the year-long youth exchange and study programme. U.S. embassy officials interviewed her in New Delhi and declared her successful. As advised, she applied for a passport on April 25, but none came to her house for verification for over two months.

Even a letter of recommendation from Senior Superintendent of Police (Srinagar) Ashiq Bukhari did not work.

However, as Sufaira’s story went on air on Monday, the Chief Minister directed Inspector-General of CID, B. Srinivas, to speed up the passport verification process. “Needless to say she will NOT be denied a passport because of her uncle’s past. All such pending cases of previous denials are being cleared,” Mr. Abdullah posted on Twitter. Later, he added: “I have asked CID to look into the passport case of Sufaira. Will revert with the facts once I have them.”

The IG CID told The Hindu: “It is a cleared case. It actually got delayed due to Durbar Move transit. This file reached us on May 22. We called for reports from CID and Police. These reached us on July 17. It takes us normally 20 days to forward the verification [report] to the Regional Passport Office. We would have done it as a routine matter this week. Now we are sending it tomorrow [Tuesday].”

However, the date of her departure for the U.S. has lapsed.

Successive governments in Srinagar have granted jobs and passports to family members of high-profile militants and separatists Syed Salahuddin, Ali Mohammad Dar, Ghulam Rasool Dar, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Asiya Andrabi and scores of others with great media hype. Many of them have been helped in travelling to different countries, including Pakistan, in pursuit of professional training and jobs.

With the exceptions of Mr. Geelani and Ms. Andrabi, almost all separatist leaders have been issued passports. However, ordinary Kashmiris, in their thousands, have complained that they are being denied jobs, bank loans and passports for their relatives’ involvement with militancy in the 1990s.

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