Student with ‘Indian-occupied Kashmir’ in Twitter bio seeks Sushma Swaraj’s help; no place like that, she says
A medical student from Jammu & Kashmir in Philippines who thought he was scoring a point by listing his location as “Indian occupied Kashmir” on Twitter discovered the perils of doing so when he ran into trouble, and sought the help of the external affairs minister who respon-ded saying there is no place called Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Sheikh Ateeq, whose Twitter handle was @SAteEQ019, requested Swaraj to help him get a new passport and said he needed one to get back to his “home, India” as his health was deteriorating.
“I am from J&K doing medicine course here in Philippines my passport got damaged I applied for new one 1 month ago I request u pls help me to get it as i literally need to go home for medical checkup ,” Ateeq tweeted on Thursday. He had asked Swaraj for help earlier, on April 5.
“Dear ma’am @SushmaSwaraj I greatly need your help. Is there anything u can do to rush the process of my passport as it is damaged. I need to get back to my home, India. My health is deteriorating and I cannot shoulder the expenses any more as I’m student (sic),” he said earlier.
Swaraj, who actively addresses people’s concerns on Twitter, replied to Ateeq on Thursday saying she would have helped him had he belonged to Jammu and Kashmir, and that there was no place called Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Soon after, Ateeq corrected the location on his Twitter bio to “Jammu &kashmir/ Manila”.
Swaraj acknowledged the correction in a tweet that was shared minutes later and asked the Indian envoy in Manila, Jaideep Mazumdar, to help the student. “I am happy you have corrected the profile. Jaideep - He is an Indian national from J&K. Pls help him,” the minister wrote.
Swaraj’s tweets had been shared over 6,700 times and liked by nearly 15,000 people as of 5 pm. Ateeq had deleted his Twitter profile. Swaraj, with 11.7 million Twitter followers, often makes the effort to respond to tweets.
“She wants a personal touch in the messages and often drafts her own response,” an aide to the minister said on condition of anonymity.
There are many instances of Swaraj helping Indian in distress by issuing instructions to officials on Twitter.
In March, after a man wrote to her that his brother had been kidnapped in Serbia and the kidnappers were threatening to kill him unless ransom was paid, Swaraj tweeted that she had come to know from the Indian ambassador in Belgrade that the brother “has been found and is in safe custody of Serbian authorities.”
In November 2017, Swaraj came to the aid of the son of a Dubai-based Pakistani national, who had to undergo open heart surgery for a rare heart defect. After being turned down by doctors in Pakistan and Dubai, the family applied for Indian visas and on Twitter approached the minister, who arranged for the travel documents to be given to them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised Swaraj, saying she and her ministry had set an example of effectively using social media to deliver good governance.
“Social media has become very powerful. I am also connected with it. But the external affairs ministry and Sushma Swaraj have set the best example of how a department can be strengthened through its use,” Modi said in his address to the Indian diaspora during a June 2017 community event in Virginia.