Kashmiri journalist and author Gowhar Geelani was barred by Indian officials from flying abroad, apparently in light of the situation in occupied Kashmir, international media reported on Sunday.
Geelani, who recently rejoined German news agency Deutsche Welle as an editor, was going to attend an eight-day conference in Bonn.
According to The Wire, he was stopped at the immigration desk of Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi for more than an hour before being denied permission to travel abroad.
“On the intervening night of August 31 and September 1 2019 I was to fly to Bonn, Germany, in Lufthansa Airlines (LH 763) plane via Munich with the sole aim of attending advanced journalist training programme as Editor of Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international public broadcaster, at its headquarters in Bonn,” The Wire quoted Geelani as saying.
The journalist said that he would have returned on September 8, immediately after the conclusion of the workshop.
According to The Indian Express, Geelani was detained “based on a request by the Intelligence Bureau”.
“I had checked in, and at the Immigration was asked by the staff to accompany them to a room, where an officer, who identified himself as Abhishek, told me that they have instructions not to allow me to leave the country,” the publication quoted Geelani as saying.
When the journalist sought an explanation, he was told, ‘Aap jaante hai aajkal kafi diqqat hai Kashmir ko lekar’ (You know there are many difficulties nowadays what with the Kashmir situation).
Upon protesting, the Kashmiri journalist was allegedly informed by the immigration official, “Sir, you cannot fly abroad […] J&K state government has flagged the issue,” The Wire reported.
The immigration officials said they were helpless and were only “following orders”.
Geelani waited for five hours before he got his passport and checked-in luggage back, according to The Wire.
Geelani told The Print that in 13 years of extensive travel this was the first time he had been prevented from boarding a flight.
“I’ve missed my training programme. This is not only curtailing my right to travel and speech, but my right to employment,” he said.
A number of prominent Kashmiris have been held or prevented from travelling freely ever since the Indian government revoked occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5.
Earlier this month, Indian Administrative Service officer-turned politician Shah Faesal was also stopped at the IGI airport while on his way to Boston.
“I think the government is paranoid right now, because of the complete lockdown no stories are getting out of Kashmir,” he told The Print. “So any Kashmiri that has some voice, be it from civil society or trade or politics — if they go abroad and speak to people then stories will break this silence.”