Srinagar: A young man was deprived of his dream and chosen career because the passport he applied for took three years to arrive.
Arif was 19 when he applied for a passport at the Srinagar office in August 2009. He calls it the “biggest mistake of my life.” Two days earlier, he had visited an education consultant to pursue his dream of studying abroad — to become an environmental engineer. The consultant gave him two options – either pay Rs 5,000 and he would take care of everything, or apply for the passport himself. Arif chose the latter, a decision he regrets to this day.
Three months after submitting his application, in October 2009, Arif went to the passport office to check its status. The officer at the counter told him that the status was: ‘verification not received.’
Arif was told to come after a few days. Now every Monday he went to the office, only to receive the same answer: verification not received.
A few weeks later, as the dead of winter set in, the person behind the computer had a new answer: it was time for the “Darbar Move”, the bi-annual exercise of shifting the capital, and the secretariat, in winter from Srinagar to Jammu. “Nothing can happen in the next two months. Come after two months,” Arif was told.
The young man did not want to waste any time and went for a German language course in Delhi.
In August 2010, while Arif was learning German at Goethe Institute Delhi, his father AB Rahman, 45, a carpenter, went to the passport office in Srinagar. He had with him the serial number of his son’s application, which the illiterate man could not read himself. So nervous was he when he reached the office that he groped for the paper in his pocket, took it out with trembling hands, and it fell on the ground. When he handed it to the officer, he was told that his son’s verification report had come out in the negative.
“What does it mean?” Rehman exclaimed. “Your son cannot get a passport,” the officer replied.
“But why?” Rehman asked with moist eyes.
“I do not know, but the report clearly prohibits issuing a passport to your son.”
The passport officer advised him to go check the details with a senior officer. When Rehman went to enquire, he was told the strangest reason: a relative of Rehman had been a militant.
Rehman left the office, sat on the footsteps outside. He tried to recall which relative could have been a militant. He could not recall even one.
Rehman, his brother, his brother’s sons, all had passports. He went to meet ministers, police officers, everyone he could seek assistance from. Finally, he decided to call his son back from Delhi.
Three years after he had applied for the passport, in April 2011, Arif was successful in getting an appointment with the ADGP, the additional director-general of police. “But he refused to meet me even after giving an appointed date and time,” Arif says. Later, the ADGP directed him to the deputy superintendent of police, Srinagar.
At the DSP’s office, Arif narrated his ordeal of waiting three years for a passport. The officer told him to write another application and submit an affidavit that he will never be involved in any criminal activity.
In July that year, Arif went to check the status of his passport. His ears heard unexpected good news: his passport would be ready in twenty days.
In August, Arif received the passport. “I was happy and laughing,” Arif says of that day. In his renewed cheer he went to apply for the visa. But the visa was rejected because there had been a three-year break in his education.
“I felt helpless and broken,” Arif says. Six years have passed and the dejected man lives with his “shattered dreams”.