“Am I a terrorist or an anti-national”, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija asked on Friday, a day after she was issued a “country-specific passport” for two years to allow her to study in the United Arab Emirates.
The 35-year-old had moved the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in February after her application for a passport was not cleared following an adverse report by the J&K Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Her passport had expired on January 2 and she had applied for a fresh one on June 8 last year.
The court directed the Regional Passport Office (RPO) to look into the merits of the case. Following this, Iltija, who wants to go for higher studies, has been issued a passport that is valid from April 5, 2023 to April 4, 2025, according to a letter by the RPO to the additional solicitor general.
“The Regional Passport Officer, Kashmir, Davinder Kumar, and the CID have misled the judiciary,” she told a press conference at the PDP headquarters here.
“The passport issued to me is a two-year passport and it is mentioned clearly that it is valid only for the UAE,” Iltija said and described the document issued to her as a “conditional passport”.
She said she was an “Indian citizen and a law abiding citizen” and has not broken any law. “But, even to issue the two-year passport, the Official Secrets Act has been invoked against me. This Act is usually invoked for espionage,” Iltija claimed.
“Am I a fugitive? Am I Nirav Modi, am I a terrorist, anti-national that I am being punished? If I talk about the central government, is it like talking against the country? What is my fault?” she asked.
“I am not a fugitive or a conman like Kiran Patel who was treated as a VVIP,” Iltija said. Patel was arrested in Kashmir last month for allegedly posing as an official of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The PDP chief’s daughter alleged that she was being treated like a hardened criminal and “like I have taken thousands of crore of rupees as loans from banks and have become a defaulter”.
She asserted that she would continue to fight her case in the court despite “pressure to withdraw her petition”.
“The Deputy Solicitor General (of India) (Tahir Majid) Shamsi has asked the court to dismiss my petition as a passport has been issued to me. But, what passport is this?” Iltija asked.
She claimed that the CID told the court that it was not stopping her passport and “not violating any of my fundamental rights”. “The right to travel abroad is a fundamental right and I am being deprived of that right,” Iltija said.
“This is happening to me because I am the daughter of a former chief minister. I am not entitled to a passport because Mehbooba Mufti is my mother. I am entitled to a passport because I am a law abiding citizen,” she said.
Iltija asked if there was any FIR registered against her or if there were any charges against her that she was being “deprived of this right”. “What is my fault? If this is happening to me, you can imagine what is happening to common Kashmiris,” she said.
Accusing the CID of “playing a very bad role and criminalising basic things such as passport issuance” in Kashmir at the “behest” of the Centre, Iltija said Kashmir is on “auto-pilot mode, silent mode” after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 as people “do not have the freedom to raise their voice and they are jailed if they say something”.
“It is a conditional passport, which is not given even to fugitives. The regional passport officer is flouting the Passport Act and violating his duties because if you are giving a conditional passport to me then they have to tell me,” she said.
“Legally, you have to let me know, you are answerable to me as to why a conditional passport was issued to me. Am I involved in some Hawala scam, or money laundering?” Iltija said.
She also asked “why has the CID submitted an adverse report in a sealed cover?”. “If you are so confident about your report, then why did you have to invoke the Official Secrets Act? Why do you not want the document to come out in public domain?” Iltija asked.
“Because there is nothing substantial in that, there are no solid grounds (against me). So, you are misleading the court. So, I request the court to see that it is being misled…,”she said.
Iltija said the government wants to make an example out of her family “so as to stop people from raising their voice”.
She said she believes that some officers of the CID were bringing “disgrace and disrepute” to the department. “They are lying to the court, harassing the people like the Nazi Germany. The CID here has only job that is to harass and persecute the Kashmiris,” Iltija alleged.
Asked if she would continue to pursue the matter in the court, Iltija alleged that there is pressure on her lawyer to “withdraw the petition”.
“But, I will not withdraw my petition because this is not my fight only but of others who have been deprived of such rights. There is tremendous pressure on us to withdraw this petition, but I will continue to fight it in the court and I have full faith in the honourable judiciary that they will issue this passport,” she said.