Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police have invoked the Official Secrets Act in its “verification report” on Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter Iltija Mufti, who was issued a “conditional” passport earlier this week following the court’s intervention.
In its response to a petition filed by Iltija in the J&K high court, the Regional Passport Officer in Srinagar said that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of J&K Police “does not favour issuance of passport” to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief’s daughter. The Wire is in possession of a copy of the response.
The CID has filed its report as a ‘top secret”, which means it will not be revealed publicly under the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, a colonial-era law which has been used by governments to maintain secrecy in matters of national security and espionage.
“Given the circumstance especially that the applicant seeks to pursue higher studies (Masters) in UAE, this office issued passport No ….. on 05/04/2023 valid up-to 04/04/2025,” Davinder Kumar, passport officer, Srinagar, wrote to the deputy solicitor general (GoI), J&K and Ladakh high court, while referring to the sealed cover report of CID.
Last month, the practice of presenting “sealed cover” reports in the court earned the ire of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, who sought an end to the “sealed cover business” while hearing the One Rank One Petition case.
‘I am being targeted’
Speaking with reporters in Srinagar on Friday, April 7, Iltija said that she had applied for a passport in June last year, following which she approached the high court where the case is being heard for the last two months.
Iltija, who ventured into active politics following the reading down of Article 370, alleged that she and her family were being targeted for speaking out against the policies of the BJP-led Union government. Her grandmother – Mehbooba’s mother Gulshan Mufti – was also denied a passport for three years but she managed to get one earlier this year following the court’s intervention.
“Am I a terrorist? Am I an anti-national? If I speak out against the Union government, does it mean that I am attacking the country? Expressing myself is my fundamental right as an Indian citizen. I have not broken any law, yet I am being targeted. I am not entitled to a passport because Mehbooba Mufti sahiba is my mother. I am entitled to a passport because I am a law-abiding Indian citizen,” she said.
Iltija said that the passport issued to her by the regional passport officer on April 5 was “for UAE only” with a two-year validity, even though an ordinary passport has 10-year validity. The PDP chief’s daughter also questioned the CID’s sealed cover report. “The police are trying to mislead the court because there is nothing substantial against me in it. If they are confident, the report should be made public,” she said.
Referring to the arrests of human rights activist Khurram Pervez and journalists Irfan Mehraj, Fahad Shah and Sajad Gul, she said that a “climate of fear and uncertainty has been clamped” in Kashmir. “Journalists and students are being pressured. Kashmir has been put on silent mode. Basic rights have been criminalised. But those who speak out are being put into jail,” she said.
“If this is happening to me, imagine the condition of ordinary Kashmiris,” she said, claiming that several people in Jammu and Kashmir have been put on a “no-fly list” by the Union government. The Wire has also reported on the “no-fly list” which was purportedly prepared after the Union government took direct charge of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019.
Highlights failures and scams
Iltija said that the administration of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals while also referring to the arrest of a BJP worker from Gujarat, Kiran Patel, from a hotel in Srinagar and the escape of businessman Nirav Modi from India.
Over the past two years, massive irregularities have surfaced in the exams conducted by J&K’s Services Selection Board for filling the posts in the UT’s Home and Finance department among others. After the irregularities were flagged, the administration was forced to cancel the appointments in at least two of these recruitments while the Central Bureau of Investigation has already filed a chargesheet in one of the scams.
Two security officials have been arrested in the sub-inspector scam.
“Today a new recruitment scam has broken out in J&K’s Fire and Emergency Services department. Unemployment rate has crossed 40% in J&K. But those who speak against these issues, against the government excesses, fake encounters and corruption are being punished,” she said.
Iltija said that the CID was playing a “dirty role” in J&K following the reading down of Article 370 in 2019. “Some CID officers are bringing disgrace and disrepute to their office by lying in the court and harassing people. Like the Gestapo police in Nazi Germany which was tasked to harass and persecute Jews, CID is similarly working to crush and persecute Kashmiris,” she said.
Iltija said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are being made to suffer for speaking out against the injustices and J&K administration wants to “make an example out of Mufti family”.
“They want to show the people that if they speak against injustices, they will be booked under anti-terror law, their fundamental rights will be curbed or their livelihoods will be snatched. So many employees have been dismissed on flimsy grounds. The Union government is beating the drums that Indian Constitution has now become applicable to J&K. But I can only see the BJP’s constitution being applied here, not the Indian Constitution,” she added.
Iltija said that the government and J&K police have told the court that they are not objecting to her passport or violating her fundamental rights. She said that she was apprehensive that the issuance of the “conditional passport” might pave the way for the dismissal of her petition in the high court.
“Right to travel abroad is a fundamental right but I am being deprived of that right. It is happening to me and I am a daughter of a former chief minister. But this battle is not only about me,” she said, alleging that the deputy solicitor general was pressuring her lawyer to withdraw the petition, “I am under a lot of pressure but I have full faith in the judiciary and I will continue to fight.”
The CID, however, refuted allegations that Iltija was being forced to withdraw her court petition. In a statement after the press conference, the police said that an internal probe has been ordered and action will be taken if any official is involved in pressuring the PDP chief’s daughter to withdraw her petition.
Iltija has “projected her personal grievance as also to be the grievance of the public in general in Kashmir. This is very problematic. J&K Police and its affiliates are public institutions and designed to serve public interest. Denigrating the community’s own institutions for grievances that are personal on the basis of false accusations is self-harm,” the police spokesperson said in a statement.
Giving out details, the spokesperson said that out of 77,686 passport verifications received in 2020, 77,644 or 99.95% were cleared, 75,176 (99.68%) out of 75,714 in 2021 and 128,939 (99.61%) out of 134,315 in 2022.
“Security verifications preceding the issue of passports is a high value public service…54 young boys…were wrongly given passport service during 2017-18. Unfortunately, all of them went to Pakistan, were taken to terrorist camps, trained in arms, ammunition and explosives, many of them pushed back into J&K through LoC and 26 of them died while either crossing or during encounters in the hinterland,” the statement said.
“J&K Police is committed to speedy and hassle free clearances for more than 99% who are ‘clean and green’ and a professional filtering of those who should be prevented from availing the service – some in their own interest and others in the interest of the public,” the statement added.
Note: This article has been updated with the CID’s response and more quotes from Iltija Mufti.