‘Our vehicles stopped, searched and let go after hefty bribe’
Punjab has turned out to be another State of India after New Delhi where every Kashmiri is being seen with suspicion by the police as every vehicle bearing registration number of JK has to undergo a thorough frisking and is not allowed to move ahead unless drivers and passengers pay a huge bribe.
Those who travelled to Srinagar via Punjab from New Delhi also alleged that policemen deployed at various stops in Haryana, Amritsar, Madhavpur and Rajpora areas seize the belongings of Kashmiris and use abusive language triggering a fear psychosis.
“It did not happen for the first time but for the second time. On March 13, when I travelled in my personal vehicle along with my family to New Delhi from Srinagar, I was first stopped at Madhavpur by the Punjab police and asked to show identity,” said Rashid Ahmed, a businessman. “Despite the fact my vehicle had a JK registration number, police men quizzed me unnecessarily checked my belongings and sought money. I paid them Rs 1000 only then I was allowed to move ahead.”
He said he faced the same fate after returning to Srinagar on May 6. “This time I was stopped at Rajpora and Amritsar stops. Policemen deployed at these stops first stopped my vehicle and then frisked my belongings. They asked stupid questions like why I was carrying clothes and why are there more than three shoes in my bag,” Ahmed said.
He said they sought Rs 1200 from him as a bribe for moving ahead. “I had to pay them, Rs 1000 yet again to move ahead. My family members were so scared as they thought policemen may kill them.”
Another traveler, who didn’t wish to be named, said situation is same at Amritsar, Madhapur and Rajpora areas of Punjab. “Earlier, JK citizens and drivers were abused, frisked and forced to pay money in New Delhi only, but now Punjab seems to have taken a lead. I thought I would be killed given the kind of behavior of Punjab cops,” he said. “Our sin is that, we are Kashmiris. We are being seen as suspects everywhere. Now in Punjab, it is very difficult to travel in a vehicle bearing registration number of JK.”
Ghulam Muhammad Turray, a driver, who often travels from Srinagar to Delhi said situation is not good in Amritsar and other parts of Punjab. “Though corruption is everywhere right from Srinagar-Jammu highway, but fear grips both, drivers as well as passengers when the vehicle enters Punjab state. If we don’t pay money to cops there, we will face their wrath,” he said.
He said even busses of Srinagar Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) are stopped for frisking. “Passengers are harassed and let go only when they dish out money. It is the local police that stop the vehicles having JK registration numbers. Punjab traffic police is not that much involved in the harassment of Kashmiri travelers.”
A group of Kashmiris, who reached Srinagar on May 10, said JK government must take serious note of maltreatment of Kashmiris. “Why is that only vehicles bearing JK registration numbers are stopped. Why not a vehicle having Delhi registration number, we request the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to take a note of the harassment of Kashmiris in Punjab,” they said.
When contacted, Police Commissioner Amritsar, Jitender Singh Aulakh said he will look into the complaints of Kashmiri travelers. “If any cop is found involved in the harassment of Kashmiris, we will strongly act against them,” Aulakh told Greater Kashmir over phone.
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s political secretary, Tanvir Sadiq said JK government will take up the issue with the Chief Minister of Punjab. “Let those who have faced hardships while travelling approach us and explain the actual situation. We will act swiftly and ensure that no Kashmiri is harassed again,” he said.