Kashmir's separatist leader-turned-theatre director Bashir Ahmed enacted a play titled 'The country without a post office' in Delhi last year. Little did he know that his 10-year theatre work could not wash away his past and his son will have to wait for the passport endlessly at Srinagar's post office.
Mehraj ul Asrar, 21, a resident of south Kashmir's Anantnag district, was among eight engineering students picked up by multinational information technology company Aricent as a software engineer in 2012. "The on-campus selection was dream come true for me...It was after four months of rigorous coaching that I qualified the All-India Engineering Entrance Exam in 2009," Asrar recalls.
Asrar, an engineer from Kashmir's reputed National Institute of Technology (NIT), says he will not meet the deadline to join the company on August 15 because of the non-issuance of a passport.
"I had applied for my passport in June 2012 and, by September, all necessary verifications were done. The CID, however, apparently passed on adverse reports in my favour and it (passport) was denied. Later, this year I filed application for a review, till date there has been no confirmation," Asrar said.
srar's father had joined separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in 1990s and worked as its general secretary. Police records suggest he was close to JKLF's Pakistan-based founder Amanullah Khan. "I was never a militant. I have not been jailed. I was with the JKLF but, in 1999, I had decided to switch to theatre. Nearly 200 artistes have been trained at my academy," said Ahmad, owner of the EKTA school of drama.
"Theatre is a powerful tool. Last time, actors Farooq Sheikh and Ifran stressed that Kashmiris should tell their own tale. That is precisely what I do. Is it a crime?" asked Ahmad, who performed the play'The country without a post office', based on poems of well-known writer Agha Shahid Ali, in Kerala and Delhi last year.
Anxious Asrar sees his future being marred for no fault of his. "I don't know why the government is starting projects such as Udaan for the youth when hundreds, who intend to work outside, are denied passports," Asrar lamented. With just 14 days left to join the company, Asrar says it was his chance to travel across the world.
Last year, chief minister Omar Abdullah, who is also the state home minister, promised to issue passports to all students whose relatives might have been involved in militancy.Interestingly, JKLF chief Yasin Malik was having passport till March this year and, in the past, met Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Muhammad Sayeed on the same passport.
"If my father was affiliated with the JKLF, why am I being punished?" said Asrar, while making an appeal to the chief minister to intervene.
A senior official in the CID, however, refuted that the passport application had been annulled completely. "It's under process. An approval was sanctioned recently," said the official, close to inspector general of police, CID, B Srinavas. Sources, however, said the passport was yet to be dispatched. After sanction, it takes at least a month to reach to the candidate.
Asrar is left with two weeks to realise his dream to travel the world as engineer rather than join alienated unemployed youth brigade of the Valley. "What if I am asked to travel aboard? What will I tell the company?" Asrar said.