Mythbusters: My Passport

A week ago one of my friend’s sent a text message. She was offended by the fact that her parents are labelled as Pakistanis in her birth certificate. She took offense as she has never believed herself to be a Pakistani and has always seen herself as a Kashmiri. Well, the views could differ from person to person but technically she’s right.

No Kashmiri from either of the two territories can be deemed as a ‘citizen’ of the said country. As both territories are pseudo-military governments which can be broadly characterized as the administration or supervision of occupied territory, or as the governmental form of such an administration.

As Basharat Peer the renowned Kashmiri author of ‘The Curfewed Night’ and who also wrote the script for India’s National awardwinning film ‘Haider’ in an interview with the Wall Street Journal replies to a question regarding his nationality status

 “I still have an Indian passport as that is the only travel document available to anyone from the Indian-controlled-part of Kashmir. The question of my nationality continues to be a matter of dispute. I refer to myself as a Kashmiri, as a journalist, as a writer.”

Since the last two weeks, Indian Media along with its trolls online have started a campaign regarding Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s appeal to travel to Saudi Arabia to see his ailing daughter. In any democratic country, this wouldn’t even show on the news ticker. But in India, nationalism is to be worn on the sleeves and even if that defies all logic and lunacy.

An 84 year old father wants to see his daughter. Why should it be even debated on prime time television? Since Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a hardcore resistance leader who wants to see an end to the Indian occupation in Kashmir, his request is seen through his politics. Chants of ‘if he wants Independence, he shouldn’t seek the Indian passport’ is plain dumb and have no basis in logic or in international law.

In the Geneva Conventions 1949 (of which India is a signatory) “A territory is considered as occupied when it finds itself in fact placed under the authority of a hostile army”. Civilians falling under such territories have the right to travel and the occupier is obligated to disseminate travel documents.

As Kashmir is an internationally recognised disputed territory falling under various United Nations resolutions which are signed by both India and Pakistan. Kashmir’s international legal status is uncertain. Since their is no legal provision in both countries which allow the inscription of ‘Kashmiri’ as nationality. It doesn’t change the fact that state subjects of Jammu and Kashmir can travel on the passport of the the occupier who’s in their jurisdiction.

Mohandas Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru and thousands of other Indians traveled on British travel documents. The British Government was obligated to provide them with such documents as a matter of human right. But India not only denies the right to travel to resistance leaders such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar etc but also the civilian population.

It’s estimated that over 75,000 Kashmiri families have been blacklisted from having a passport. That’s a massive number and a clear violation of international law and rights.

It’s important to say here that having an Indian passport doesn’t violate the right to self determination of Kashmiris. It’s also important to know that having an Indian passport doesn’t make ‘Kashmiris’ Indians or for that matter Pakistanis.

Until the referendum is held in Kashmir or any acceptable framework is devised which is voted in favour by the subjects of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have the right to travel and their travel which implies possession of passport doesn’t translate into their assent of the Indian rule in Kashmir.

By International Law, Kashmiris are the state subjects of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. In the current context, the status of people of Kashmir is uncertain as their final status is yet to be determined. Also it is important to mention that according to Section 18 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), “India means the territory of India excluding Jammu and Kashmir.”

Resolving the dispute itself can put every other offshoot to rest. Passports are not the problem, the problem is the pending conflict which seeks its end.

Denying any Kashmir the right to travel is inhumane and it does not serve the purpose of democracy.Let the rabid Indian media not forget principle of equality, as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

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