The inauguration of the Passport Seva Kendra and introduction of online passport system at Srinagar and Jammu by the Minister for External Affairs had raised the hope that not only the issuance of passports or their renewals would be expedited but also that no citizen applying for passport will be denied it. The new system has certainly resulted in the expeditious delivery of passports to the applicants and simplification of the procedure. While the new system has been widely welcomed in view of the delay, procedural hassles, red tapism and large scale corruption in the past, it has failed to bring any solace to thousands of applicants from the troubled state whose applications seeking fresh passports or renewal of their expired passports are pending, in some cases for years. Unlike in the rest of the country the passports to the citizens in J&K can only be issued after the clearance of the State’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), in most cases a lengthy process. The rulers in New Delhi and Srinagar proclaim day in and day out that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Then why this discrimination against the people of the State? Clearly they are being treated as suspects and second class citizens of India.
Despite the setting up of the Passport Seva Kendra and simplification of procedure for issuing passports, the proclaimed citizens of India have to go through the humiliating rigmarole of police and intelligence clearance before their applications are cleared for issuing passports. The Constitution of India proclaims all citizens as equal but the manner in which the people of the State are being treated by the establishment it seems that while all are equal, some are less equal than others. The reformed system of issuing passport has not brought any cheers to thousands of those in Kashmir who have been denied passports on flimziest of grounds. Unlike other citizens in the country, who are considered loyal citizens, the Indian citizens in J&K have to prove that they are loyal to the country. The police is supposed to certify that the applicant is a citizen of India and has not “ indulged, or likely to indulge in any activity which could be prejudicial to the sovereignty of India, the security of India, friendly relations of India with any foreign country, or the interests of the general public”. This clearly betrays the rulers lack of trust in the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Not only in the case of issuing passports but in several other ways the people of the troubled state are being treated differently than the citizens of India living in other states ( except in North East ). They have been denied their democratic rights in many ways overtly as well as covertly. They have no right to hold public rallies and demonstrations, cannot even protest against the government failure and atrocities committed on them. Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code, banning meetings and rallies has been the permanent feature of life in Jammu and Kashmir. The freedom of the citizens has been denied by enforcing several draconian laws like the Public Safety Act. J&K is the only state (besides some North Eastern areas) where the Armed Forces Powers Act, empowering the security forces with blanket powers and providing them a culture of immunity, is being enforced. The PSA is being flagrantly used to curb the rights of the citizens, arrest detain people without giving them even any grounds for detention. It is the only state where the political leaders are put under house for days and months on the slightest pretext. The denial of mobile service, ban on international direct dialing and other curbs on the communication system are other signs of the citizens of India in J&K being treated as less equal than Indians living in other states. The rulers in New Delhi still assert that J&K is an integral part of India.