Kashmiri Student Activist Waiting for a Passport Ten Months After Application

Nasir Khuehami says he has done nothing to be denied a passport, and the authorities must give him a reason for stalling his plans to study abroad.

Srinagar: Nasir Khuehami, a student activist from Kashmir, has alleged that the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are not issuing him a passport even ten months after he followed all the application procedures. He submitted his application on April 19, 2022.

“For 10 months, I have been made to move from pillar to post by the authorities. It’s been approximately 306 days since I applied for a passport and I am yet to procure one,” Khuehami told The Wire.

The 25 year old is from Bandipora district in north Kashmir. He is the national convenor of the Students’ Association of Jammu and Kashmir, an organisation which has remained at the forefront of raising the issues of Kashmiri students and helping them whenever they faced difficulties, whether in different parts of India or abroad.

Khuehami recently got shortlisted for an interview for the Chevening Fellowship. The is the UK government’s international scholarship programme. “My interview is scheduled for March 1,” Khuehami said. “I am hopeful to attend other foreign exchange programmes and leadership programmes this year, including the IVLP, Australia Dialogue and Sharaka Conference in Poland and the UAE. The continuous denial of a passport may restrict me from availing of these opportunities.”

Throughout his student activism, Khuehami says, he has worked within the framework of the Constitution to redress the grievances of students by working in liaison with the Central and various state governments.

A journalism student, Khuehami started his activism in 2017, while at the HNB Garhwal Central University. “I never issued any kind of statement which may be problematic for the administration. Instead I am engaging with the government to redress issues,” he said.

Over the last few years, he said, he has witnessed Kashmiri students being harassed for their identity several times. Because of that, he felt the need for a students’ association that would work for the welfare, safety and security of Kashmiri students. “Keeping that in mind, in 2017 I along with a group of trained, dedicated, like-minded people founded the J&K Students’ Association. Over the years, I relentlessly raised student issues and put in best efforts for their redressal. The Association proved to be a guardian angel for Kashmiri students in 2019, when racist and sectarian violence erupted against Kashmiri students in Indian cities as ‘revenge’ following the militant attack in Pulwama,” he told The Wire.

At the time, according to him, hundreds of Kashmiri students faced violence or were thrown out of housing by landlords across the country. “I was at the forefront of evacuating thousands of Kashmiri students to safer places and providing them with stock, accommodation and transport facilities.”

“I have adhered to all legal procedures at the local police station, passport office, CID office and SSP office months ago. I even visited several times for clarification, but have received no concrete response so far. I can’t spend thousands of rupees every month for my air ticket to travel from Delhi to Srinagar [Khuehami is a student at Jamia Millia Islamia] to knock on every door for updates. It is affecting my studies,” he said.

Khuehami says that it took him approximately five years to reach the stage where he is today. When he started his activism, nobody even in his locality or at university knew him. It took 5-6 years to build a strong network across the country, across political party lines.

“Be it Kashmiri students in Bangladesh or Ukraine or the UK or US, we brought them all under one umbrella. I intervene in issues beyond student welfare now. We raise and redress the issues of labourers, businessmen and Kashmiri shawl shellers as well, when they face harassment in mainland India,” he told The Wire.

In October last year, Khuehami wrote to Union home minister Amit Shah about his passport application not being answered, but has not heard back. According to him, when he spoke to a civil administration officer two months ago, the officer told Khuehami to stick to student issues and not be critical of the regime if he wants a passport.

Khuehami calls himself an apolitical person who keeps himself engaged with student safety and welfare activities. “I don’t think there can be any valid reason for the authorities to withhold my passport,” he said. Denying him a passport, he adds, without providing him with a reason under the Passports Act, 1967, infringes on his fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

“I believe in constitutional norms and democratic principles. I have never committed any infraction which can be grounds for denying a passport to me under the Passport Act, 1967,” he told The Wire.

“My work has been recognised by chief ministers, MPs and others publicly, from across party lines. It is on the record. If the government feels that I am doing anything wrong, they should call me and question me and should book me under relevant section,” he said, adding that the authorities know they won’t be able to find anything against him.

The Wire reached out to the regional passport officer, Srinagar through the phone and email, but didn’t get a response. This article will be updated if a response is received.

Mubashir Naik is an independent journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets at @Sule_khaak.

Edited by Jahnavi Sen.