Kashmiri Journalist Gowhar Geelani Stopped From Travelling Abroad

The journalist said an immigration official kept repeating, “Aaj kal Kashmir ko lekar kafi diqqat hai (These days, there is a lot of trouble because of Kashmir).”

New Delhi: Journalist-author Gowhar Geelani became the latest victim of the ongoing clampdown on prominent Kashmiris. A number of Kashmiris have either been detained or not been allowed to freely travel ever since the Union government revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5.

On August 31, Geelani, who recently re-joined the German news agency Deutsche Welle as an editor, claimed that he was stopped from travelling to Bonn at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. His book, Kashmir: Rage and Reason, was released by Rupa Publications last month.

Earlier this month, Shah Faesal, the 2009-batch IAS topper who quit the prestigious service to join politics recently, was also denied permission to travel to Boston, US at Delhi’s IGI Airport.

Geelani said that no specific reason was given to him in writing, except that the immigration official kept repeating, “Aaj kal Kashmir ko lekar kafi diqqat hai (These days, there is a lot of trouble because of Kashmir).”

Also read | Kashmir and I: Negotiating a New Reality After August 5

“On the intervening night of 31 August and 01 September 2019 I was to fly to Bonn, Germany, in Lufthansa Airlines (LH 763) plane via Munich with the sole aim of attending advanced journalist training programme as Editor of Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international public broadcaster, at its headquarters in Bonn,” Geelani said, adding that he would have come back to India on September 8, immediately after finishing a workshop he was supposed to attend.

However, the journalist was stopped at the immigration desk for more than an hour before being denied permission to travel abroad.

He said that at around 9 pm on Saturday, after collecting his boarding passes, the immigration desk scanned his documents and asked him to wait. Meanwhile, the official also called his seniors to review Geelani’s travel. A senior official, who identified himself as Abhishek, later asked Geelani to accompany him to a room.

“I was asked to sit in a room where one Sikh lady was also waiting. She had to fly to the United States, but was off-loaded because of some pending court case in her village in Punjab. Meanwhile, Mr. Abhishek appeared after 15-20 minutes and told me that ‘Aap jaante hai aajkal kafi diqqat hai Kashmir ko lekar’. I politely asked him what the problem was. He didn’t give any answer and asked me to wait again for 15 minutes or so,” the journalist said.

Also read | Kashmiri Lawyer, Who Encouraged People to Vote, Detained to Prevent Protests

Geelani asked what his fault was but wasn’t given any reason. When Geelani protested, the immigration official allegedly told him, “Sir, you cannot fly abroad…J&K state government has flagged the issue…You Sir, you know how it is these days.”

After being denied permission to travel, he said the official told him that he was only “following the orders” of his seniors. The immigration officials, Geelani said, were “polite throughout” but pleaded helplessness.

Geelani’s ordeal did not end there, as he had to wait almost five hours to get his passport and checked-in luggage back. The Indian Express reported that IGI airport officials detained him after the Intelligence Bureau tipped them off on Geelani’s travel plans.

“I am a published author, broadcast journalist, television analyst and political commentator. Last month, my book Kashmir: Rage and Reason was released by Rupa Publications. I do not understand what unknown crimes I have committed for which I was denied my right to employment, right to travel, and the right to free speech,” he said.