Awarded by Govt a Month Ago, J&K Scribe Stopped from Flying Out
Bilal Bhat alleged he was offloaded from the IGI airport by immigration authorities when he was going to Malaysia
Kashmiri journalist and human rights activist Bilal Bhat on Monday, 15 October, alleged that he was offloaded from the IGI T3 airport in New Delhi by the immigration authorities when he was due to visit Malaysia.
According to him, despite inquiring about the 'reason' several times from immigration officials, they did not disclose it to him.
Speaking to The Quint, Bhat said he was selected as a delegate and was representing India at the Children and Youth Assembly, organised by UN-Habitat, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP), Urbanice Malaysia and UN Major Group for Children and Youth in association with the 7th Asia-Pacific Urban Forum (APUF-7).
‘Was Kept Waiting for Five Hours’
Narrating his ordeal to The Quint, Bhat said upon reaching the immigration counter at the airport around 8 pm on Monday, he was first asked if he was a Kashmiri and then enquired about the purpose of his visit.
“Once they started asking me questions, I got apprehensive that they would not allow me to board the plane as fellow journalists like Gowhar Geelani have been barred in the recent past. So, I told them that I am going for admission in a college in Malaysia, which is in fact not a lie.”
Bhat has shared evidence with The Quint of his talks with a university in Malaysia.
According to Bhat, after asking him a few questions, the immigration officials asked him to produce further documents to verify his age. The officials then took his driver’s licence, visa and some other documents and asked him to wait outside the office.
“They kept me waiting for five hours, till about 1 am and then informed me that I would be offloaded. They did not give me any reason when I asked why I was not allowed,” Bhat told The Quint.
Bhat said the officials are still in possession of his driver’s licence.
‘Govt Awarded Me Just a Month Ago’
Bhat further said he was particularly surprised at the incident as he was awarded by the Health Ministry only last month at an event in Chennai.
“Just a month ago the Health Minister awarded me for inviting more than 100 delegates from 20 countries to speak on SDGs (sustainable development goals) at an International Youth Forum in Chennai,” Bhat said.
“I used to voice human rights issues of Kashmiris in the past but keeping in mind the government’s crackdown on such activists, I decided to work on constructive issues like development,” Bhat added.
‘They Don’t Want Me to Raise the Kashmir Issue’
On being asked why he thinks he was barred from leaving the country, Bhat said the government does not want the Kashmir issue be raised outside India.
“For the last three months, they (government) have been indifferent towards Kashmir and they don’t want that I as a journalist and human rights activist speak on this issue,” said Bhat, who has worked as a reporter for publications like Milli Gazette and Greater Kashmir, besides working as a freelancer.
He said the fact that the Malaysian prime minister recently spoke at the UN on critical lines on the Kashmir issue, may also have been a reason behind the incident.
“I too have the right to represent my motherland. I don’t want Pakistan to speak on Kashmiri’s behalf,” Bhat summed up.
The Quint has reached out to immigration authorities, and the copy will be updated with their response.
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