From last four days, Mohammad Lateef Banday along with his family is stranded in Jammu due to the highway closure. He would’ve been home by now, he said, had he, along with his family not de-boarded by Indigo Airlines.
The incident involving the Pulwama family surfaced when many Kashmiris—studying and working in different parts of India—became soft-targets after the highway car bombing that left 49 CRPF men dead on February 14.
“Citing mismatch details on our Aadhaar cards and tickets, we were deboarded from Delhi-Srinagar Indigo Airlines flight no. 6E 2136 (T2) and detained for two hours,” Lateef alleged.
Even as the airport security cross-checked their identity cards and cleared them for travel, Lateef said, “the Indigo authorities were adamant. I feel that as soon as they saw Pulwama written on our cards, their expressions changed.”
Repeated calls to Indigo Airlines for their comment on the incident went unanswered. This reporter sent a query to the official email ID of the airlines. As and when they would respond, this story will be updated.
Meanwhile, after detention, Lateef said, he was then asked to board the next flight for Rs 27,000/ticket—which he refused in protest.
“I repeatedly requested and begged the airline authority, but they didn’t listen to us,” said Shahzada, Lateef’s wife, who’s a hypertension patient. “This incident made me realise how Kashmiris are humiliated outside the valley.”
After a long explanation and a tweet from a Kashmiri activist Shehla Rashid, Indigo finally refunded their tickets.
Post the airport incident, the couple along with their agonised daughter took a non-AC train to Jammu, where they’re currently staying with their relative, Yawar Banday.
“When I came to know about this incident, I asked them to come over,” Banday told Fress Press Kashmir at his residence in Bathindi, Jammu. “Their faces reflected trauma and fear. It took me a while to assure them that they’re safe now.”
While questioning the behaviour of the airlines, Banday asked how come the identity proof of the family issued by Indian authorities became invalid suddenly, and that too when Kashmiris were facing hate attacks for Pulwama bombing.
“They’ve been travelling with the same identity for many years now,” he said. “This shameful incident took place when they were moving back to the valley for the engagement of their elder son.”
The issue first came to notice when a co-Kashmiri passenger Mir Saqib contacted Kashmiri activist Shehla Rashid, whose tweet forced Indigo authorities to refund the family.
“Even he [Saqib] was warned and threatened to be de-boarded when he tried to support us,” Shahzada said. “It further agonised us.”
Saqib later uploaded a Facebook post, explaining the whole episode, with a hashtag #bycottindigo. Comments on his post suggested that the Airlines is not new to such controversies.
When contacted, Saqib told Free Press Kashmir, “These incidents make us understand of the identity crisis we face as Kashmiris in India today.”
He said that the flight had no vacant seat, even as the family was de-boarded. “That certainly hints at something else,” Saqib said.
He feels that the tickets might’ve been sold on a higher price to other customers—the allegation ascertained by many netizens.
“The outrageous treatment from the Airlines still haunts me,” Saqib said. “I still remember how the lady [Shahzada] was crying and touching their feet to let her go. But they stood unmoved and indifferent to her cries.”