Police in Goa are issuing identity cards to traders coming from Kashmir under a special category "Stranger Roll". Many Kashmiri businessmen, who have set up their ventures in tourists' mecca called Goa, claim the new identity card has shooed away their prospective buyers and is discriminatory in nature.
Ghulam Rasheed Badoo is among hundreds of traders from Kashmir who have set up shops in Goa to sell handicraft items, trinkets, carpets and gem stones. Badoo, however, is incensed by the new I-card.
"I have recently set up my own shop in Goa. A prospective foreign customer intended to deal with me and order my products from his country. But we could not sign a deal because my identity card was saying 'Stranger Roll'," said Badoo, who has been traveling to the beaches of Goa as Kashmiri goods peddler for several years now.
Badoo said the identity card instills a sense of suspicion among our buyers. "How can I explain why we are being given "Stranger Roll" cards in Goa. It's difficult to convince a customer," said Badoo.
Every year hundreds of Kashmiris during tourist season shift businesses from Kashmir to areas in and around the coastal resort town of Colva and Calangute. According to Goa Police records, more than 4,000 kashmiris visit Goa for trade.
It was after the 26/11 Mumbai attack that Goa Police started a crackdown on Kashmiri businessmen and issued directions for verification process.
"If a Kashmiri has to set up business in Goa, he has to get registered with local police stations for verification of credentials. Unless a local vouches for us, we are not allowed to do trade. But unfortunately unlike other outsiders, like people coming from Bihar, Nepal or Tibetan refugees, we are issued with distinctive I-cards under 'Stranger Roll'," said Badoo.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah has taken up the issue of harassment with different states in the past but the complaint continues to haunt students and traders outside the state.
The Centre's Himayat programme, aimed at employing Kashmiri youth outside the valley, has showed sharp dropout rates this year following issues of accommodation. Of 1,003 youths trained from the Valley, 25% of them had to quit.
"One important reason is that in places like Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Jaipur... landlords are not willing to give accommodation to Kashmiris," Rural Development minister Jairam Ramesh said recently.