When family from J&K was let down by media, police and Delhi’s political class

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Rifat Jawaid

Follow on twitter @RifatJawaid

On early hours of Sunday we were shocked to discover how a family was denied accommodation by not one but three hotels in Delhi just because they were from Jammu and Kashmir.

I was contacted by one Arif Hussain on twitter at around 1.15 AM desperately asking for help while he with his sister and brother-in-law stood outside the New Delhi Railway Station in the freezing cold.

Shocked by this revelation, I contacted Arif asking him to share his number so that I could call him up and understand the matter for me to be able to extend help if possible.

He informed me that one Mahalaxmi Hotel and two other hotels (whose names he didn’t remember) in Paharganj area of Delhi had denied them accommodation soon after they presented their ID cards belonging to Jammu and Kashmir.

While I tweeted requesting people to help the family, I contacted the Mahalaxmi hotel. After several attempts, I finally managed to speak to the manager, a Mr. Joshi, who said the family may have gone to his sister hotel, Mahalaxmi guest house. Joshi, however, confirmed that the Delhi police had indeed instructed them to not allow guests from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir accommodation.

Arif informed me that among the identity cards his family had produced were his own voter’s ID card, driving licence and his brother-in-law’s bank ID card as he worked in a government bank.

But, none was enough to get them the accommodation forcing the family to spend the night at the railway station.

This development has, however, all of us as a society on several fronts. We let a fellow Indian and his family down just because of their ethnicity.

We are never tired of impressing upon people how Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. So integral, that the police in the national capital is alleged to have the audacity to issue diktat to hotels to include its people in the list of suspicious individuals belonging to countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

What’s been even more astonishing is the utter indifference to this episode, by media at large and the political class.

Police’s silence is not baffling as much as the apathy shown by the Indian media and the Delhi government.

Indian media had rightly exploded in outrage, when in October a Pakistani family was denied accommodation by 40-odd hotels in Mumbai.

Here is a case of blatant case of racism suffered by people from the INDIAN state of Jammu and Kashmir, at the behest of a central government agency i.e. Delhi police, and despite hours after the matter being reported by jantakareporter.com and widely shared on social media, no action has been taken.

As of now, only Times Now and Times of India have shown interest in the story as their reporters contacted me for Arif’s contact details.

The city government, led by Aam Aadmi Party, too has maintained a mysterious silence despite the victim, Arif, and dozens of social media users tagging both the deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in countless tweets.

No doubt, the Odd-Even formula is important and I’ve been one of the few journalists who has supported this idea even before the government came up with this novel idea. But, not to react to the blatant violation of human rights in a state you have your government, the AAP  simply can’t find an excuse.

I wonder if the party would have been so unaffected by this development if the capital was going for elections or it had any political stakes in Jammu and Kashmir. AAP’s indifference to this matter, has baffled me the most. Not because Delhi is currently being ruled by them but also this party won a historic mandate promising to be different from other traditional parties.

Such insensitivity, inadvertent or deliberate, are being noticed by their own supporters, all thanks to the power of social media. One person even wrote on my twitter timeline, “Was Arvind Kejriwal government silent on this development because Muslim voters aren’t decisive in Punjab?” Now this is worrying if people have already begun to link Delhi government’s inaction to Arif’s religion and AAP’s alleged political opportunism.

This development, however, also showed just how ordinary people will forget their political ideologies to help a fellow Indian in distress. A shining example of India’s age-old identity of Unity in Diversity. Arif’s tweet and my call for help on twitter elicited an unprecedented response even at 2 AM in the morning as people of all political hues inundated the Jammu family with responses of help.

We the people of Delhi let this family from Jammu and Kashmir down. I tried my best to provide him relief. But nothing would have been enough to erase the scar of being looked at with suspicion in their own country.

After an hour-long phone-bashing, I managed to convince the hotel owner to give the family accommodation subject to satisfactory identity checks. But Arif had moved his family into the waiting room of the railway station by then. It was only after Arif assured me that he and his family were fine, I decided to write the report. My ethics demanded that I used my resources as a journalist to provide him relief first before using his misery to increase the page views for my website.

I must confess that I felt incredibly proud of having done my bit towards ethical journalism. But, the fact the family left Delhi with ignominy of insults hurled at his family by his so-called fellow Indians, left me ashamed. Even as a journalist, I felt helpless that I could not do much in prompting the powers-that-be of Delhi’s ruling class to do something tangible so that no Arif goes through this humiliation in future.

And we are not even discussing the long-lasting impact on the morale of people from the valley, who we want to feel part of India. Just imagine the impact of such development in alienating them further away from the mainstream!

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