J&K: Hurriyat chief Syed Geelani's passport issue sparks divide in PDP-BJP govt

Srinagar: The granting of an Indian passport to Syed Ali Geelani, chairman of the hardline Hurriyat faction in Jammu and Kashmir, has sparked a divide between BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party the ruling coalition government in the state.

The relations between the two parties took a turn for the worse as the BJP has openly objected to the granting of travel documents to Geelani who wants to meet his ailing daughter, Farhat Jabeen Geelani, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

 J&K: Hurriyat chief Syed Geelanis passport issue sparks divide in PDP-BJP govt

Hurriyat leader Syed Geelani. AFP

Ayaz Akbar, Geelani's spokesperson, said the separatist leader has applied for a passport purely on personal grounds and not to carry out any political activity.

“It is a humanitarian issue of a father meeting his daughter. We are not ready to beg before the government if they refuse. It would be a violation of basic human rights of an individual. Geelani sahib is not going on a ‘political trip’ to Jeddah but only wishing to meet his daughter who is terminally ill there,” he said.

Although the state government led by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, which is seeking to appease separatists, has stayed away from publicly commenting on the issue, almost all senior party leaders Firstpost spoke with on Sunday are in favour of providing a passport to the octogenarian leader.

However, the opposition to the PDP's plan has come from its coalition partner BJP. A senior party leader told Firstpost that Geelani must first acknowledge that he is an Indian and "apologise" for his anti-national activities. "Passports are provided to Indian citizens, not the ones who don't believe in India and our democracy."

The party's spokesperson in Srinagar, Khalid Jehangir, said Geelani's passport should not be issued until he apologies for the “mistakes he has committed from last two decades."

"If Geelani acknowledges that he is an Indian and won't indulge in anti-India activities, then only the government of India must consider his request," he said.

The BJP's stand on the issue has irked the PDP leadership. A senior party leader, who refused to speak on record, said when other separatist leaders can have passports and travel around the world, there is nothing wrong in Geelani meeting his ailing daughter.

"The government should have no objection if Geelani gets a passport which is the right of every citizen," he said.

Sources said Chief Minister Mufti asked his deputy Nirmal Singh, who is a BJP legislator, to meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and appraise him of the matter. They said the Centre has no issue with Geelani travelling abroad and the deputy chief minister has been told by the party high command that there is nothing wrong if the separatist leader wanted to meet his ailing daughter.

Geelani’s passport was seized by authorities in 1981 but an intervention by former prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2007, facilitated the release of his travel documents on medical grounds for travelling to United States. At that time, Geelani was issued the passport on Tatkal basis and it was valid for just one year.

The politics of passports has been playing out for a long time in Kashmir where thousands of people have been denied travel documents on grounds that their relatives might have been associated with militants or separatists.

Around 75,000 families in Kashmir valley alone are indexed in a security risk list, which blocks their access to a peaceful life and travel plans with youth involved in stone-pelting incidents becoming the latest addition to the list.

Officials say nearly four lakh people, mostly youth, can't get government jobs, travel papers or any such facility that requires police verification because their relatives were involved in 'anti-national' activities. In many cases, young children who were not even born at the time, have been denied passport.

While Geelani may get the passport this time, the decision of providing him one, despite the fact that he has remained steadfast on his demand of right to self determination and often blames India for all that is ailing Kashmir, exposes the hypocrisy of the system. It can also set a precedent which may not go down well with many in the BJP which has already started opposing the issue.

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Updated Date: May 18, 2015 17:37:16 IST