December 29, 2005Public Policy

Passports for the Pandits

The byzantine world of the Passport Office needs to change

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Lalit Koul points out one instance of how mindless application of regulations is adding to the woes of the Kashmiri Pandit community. Having been driven out of their homes by jihadi groups as part of the highly successful process of ethnic cleaning since 1989, the Pandits now live in camps and scattered communities across India. But when they apply for passports the government of India requires their antecedents to be checked at the place of their birth.

Let us take a look at a simple and factual scenario. A Kashmiri Hindu, who is in his/her early twenties today, was a toddler when s/he had to leave the valley along with his/her parents back in 1990.

Now since s/he was born in Kashmir, it will be a life-long matter of fact that his/her place of birth will be always Kashmir. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Every Kashmiri Hindu born in Kashmir is very proud of his place of birth and the heritage that it brings along with it.

But how on earth could Kashmiri Hindu youths get their antecedents checked and verified from the valley when they have not even lived there for the last 16 years? The houses where these youths saw their first sunrise have either been burnt down or demolished or illegally occupied by Islamic terrorists.

The ground situation in the Kashmir valley is so precarious that none of these Kashmiri Hindus can yet go back and resettle there to live with peace, honour and dignity. The gun culture is still so prevalent in Kashmir that common people are always living under the fear of terror. [Rediff]There is, in general, a clear case for the government to simplify the procedure of issuing passports. The current procedure seems to have been designed for an ancient age where mobility within Indian territory was limited. Times have changed. Government processes have not. What is irritating red-tape to most of India’s citizens must be especially galling for its Kashmiri Pandits. It is about time that the government of India did something to make lives easier.

Related Link: Lalit Koul, Subodh Atal and others from the Kashmir Herald have started a blog.

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