Working In Delhi Lands Kashmiris In Trouble

The shopr

By Sumegha Gulati

New Delhi: A year after the anti-touting legislation came into existence, fourteen people out of whom six are kashmiris, have been booked under the law since January this year in New Delhi’s tourist hub Connaught Place.

The accused however claimed that they were “merely guiding” tourists towards their travel agency offices which have become inaccessible due to the CP restoration work going on for the past two years.

Police has booked 14 people from CP this year under the Delhi Prevention of Touting and Malpractices against Tourists Act, 2010. Six of them are Kashmiri locals, identified as Tasduk Hussain (27), Mohammad Shafi Vaktu (50), Fayaz Ahmad (34), Nishar (24), Mohammad Yaseen (23) and Mohammad Asif (25).

According to police, the accused were arrested for “troubling foreigner tourists” and forcing them to visit their travel agencies located in CP. “Most of these men work for a travel agency in CP that claimed it was an official agency of the Jammu and Kashmir tourism department. Their arrests were not made on the basis of their Kashmiri identity,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (New Delhi), K.C. Dwivedi.

"The tourists cannot even see the offices on this side due to the metal barricades," Fayaz said.

Refuting the charges, at least four of the accused and their relatives claimed that they were not “soliciting” customers when arrested. Fayaz Ahmad, who works with ‘Tour & Travels’ agency was arrested near the CP post office in A-block on July 30. “At 11 am, I was standing alone near the mosque in Outer circle when two cops took me to the police station. I was released three hours later after my surety papers were submitted,” he said.

The manager of Tours and Travels’, Mohammad Riyaz (26) explained that the arrested accused used to “guide” customers towards their travel agency. “Since our office is on the inner side of H-block, it has become inaccessible for the tourists because of the restoration work going on for more than two years. The tourists cannot even see the offices on this side due to the metal barricades. So, our men are forced to stand in the outer-circle corridor and direct tourists towards the office if they need free information or maps,” he said.

Riyaz’s younger brother Yaseen, and his friend, Asif were also booked under the Act in August this year. “On August 8, I had sent Yaseen and Asif to accompany one of our Canadian guests to a restaurant when police informed me about their arrest. Though the Canadians vouched for the two boys, they were taken to police station and released after we submitted their surety,” Riyaz said.

Interestingly, the arrests were made after the owner of another travel agency ‘West India Travels’, Manish Singh filed complaints against “some Kashmiri boys” who were allegedly touting and distracting tourists.

“As soon as these foreigner tourists used to come, the Kashmiri men used to pounce upon them and forcefully take them to hotels or shops. They often used to stand near our office to lure customers. It is not as if non-Kashmiris do not work as touts but Kashmiris are famous for touting. Hence, we requested police to take some strict action,” Singh said.

Riyaz explained Singh’s statements as “discriminating” and claimed that the anti-touting Act has been “misused” by a number of groups, including the police to “target” the Kashmiri youth working in the city.

“There are around 3000 touts in Delhi, out of which only 300 or so might be Kashmiris working for travel agencies. Yet, the attitude of police towards Kashmiris is one of hostility and suspicion. It is frustrating, particularly for those who had no option but to either suffer the conflict or come to Delhi and other cities once militancy started in Kashmir,” Riyaz said.

Fayaz Ahmad, working with a tour agency, who came to Delhi in 1996 at the age of 19, echoed similar sentiments. His wife and 3-year old daughter live in Srinagar with his elderly parents and an unmarried sister and he is the family’s only earning member.

ACCUSED

The narrow entrance due to the iron sheets for metro construction work has made the tourist offices almost inaccessible.

Tasduk Hussain (27) – Belongs to Srinagar. Was detained on March 9 from Odeon Sweet House in L-block for “troubling a foreigner girl who was approaching Jucaso Inn”.

Mohammad Shafi Vaktu (50) – Belongs to Srinagar. Was arrested on July 8 near Janpath Bhawan for “forcing a tourist who was going from Janpath market to CP to accompany them to a hotel.”

Nishar (24) – Belongs to Shalimar in Srinagar. Was arrested on July 17 from E-block for “harassing and troubling a foreigner girl”

Fayaz Ahmad (34) – Belongs to Sadribal, Nigeen in Srinagar. Was arrested on July 30 from A-block post office for “troubling 3-4 foreign tourists”

Mohammad Yaseen (23) – Belongs to Lal Bazaar in Srinagar. Arrested on August 8 from McDonald’s restaurant in B-block “for forcing three tourists to visit their H-block travel agency”

Mohammad Asif (25) – Belongs to Brane, Nishat in Srinagar. Arrested on August 8 from McDonald’s restaurant in B-block “for forcing three tourists to visit their H-block travel agency”

What is Delhi Prevention of Touting and Malpractices against Tourists Act, 2010?

Part I, section 2 (e) of the Act says ‘Touting includes enticing, misguiding or coercing for shopping, accommodation, transportation, sight-seeing or pestering for any particular premises, including the precincts thereof, any person, establishment, dealer or manufacturer for personal consideration.’

According to the act, which was enforced in September 2010 during the Common Wealth games, wherever loiters around airports, railway stations, bus stands, markets or any other places frequented by tourists with the intention of offering any unsolicited service to the tourist or pestering or coercing him to use any such service and exhibits such conduct so as to show such intention (like following arguing, communicating or otherwise drawing attention of tourists through words or gestures or placards or pamphlets thereby causing obstruction or annoyance to tourists or general public) and otherwise has no reasonable explanation for frequenting the said place will be deemed to have committed the act of touting.

Photos: Heena Kausar

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