In a very striking development which Indian establishment refers to as shocking incident, Canadian High Commission first refused BSF constable Fateh Singh Pandher a visa then turned down two visa proposals, of retired Lieutenant General AS Bahia and an ex-IB officer of deputy director rank. All the three had allegedly been involved in human rights abuses Jammu and Kashmir.
The Canadian High Commission refused BSF constable Fateh Singh Pandher a visa on grounds that he was associated with a ‘notoriously violent force which has committed serious kind of rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir.
Only after weeks time retired Lieutenant General AS Bahia a member of defence appellate tribunal was denied visa on the grounds that he had served in Jammu & Kashmir and his unit the Rashtriya Rifles was involved in rights violations.
The third case involves an ex-IB officer of deputy director rank who has been denied a visa because the Canadian government believes he will snoop around.
The Canadian government has quoted amnesty international’s report which says that India committed war crimes that led to the death of 70,000 people.
Canadian high commission states his visa was being denied under war crime act of Canada. The consulate general of Canada in a letter to Bahia said that he was posted in Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian defence forces.The Canadian high commission also said: There are concerns over your tenure in J & K.Quoting Amnesty International, the letter said defence forces were involved in certain excesses in the region which is violation of their law and thus his tourist visa application shall be rejected.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has strongly opposed it through External Affairs Ministry. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao reacted sharply on fresh cases of visas being denied by Canada high commission said the Indian high commission would take up the matter with the Canadian government. Though the denial of visa and the reason given for it sparked public outrage in India, but it was quite embarrassing for the Indian government. If at all the three ex-security officials of India succeed in getting visa for Canada on intervention of External Affairs Ministry, but the fact remains that this kind of exemplary treatment of Canadian High Commission to three security officials who have served in Kashmir can certainly open a new way of agitating over human rights abuses and at least can have far reaching implications on the overall diplomatic principals.
The declination of visa to Indian security personnels by the Canadian embassy is not new. That country has been denying visa to Punjab police officials for quite some time. Canada’s respect for human rights is being acknowledged by the fact that a sizable chunk of the people of Punjabi origin live in that country and during the Punjab turmoil some most wanted Sikh Guerrillas took shelter in that country. But soon after there was dramatic change in the Canadian approach, perhaps under the influence of changing world scenario, Canada became prohibited area for the people who one way or the other attire involved in rights abuses.
Reportedly, immigration petitions from many BSF officers from Punjab were rejected in a number of instances. For instance, before the case of Fateh Singh Pandher, two more applications from the border protection crew officials were refused by the commission. For reason the latter stated that both the personnels who applied for the visa were involved in “anti-military activity”. Besides, they were believed to have participated in actions that had the tendency to violate human rights in Punjab. According to some reports, now BSF personnels who intend to file petition for a Canadian visa will need to complete a distinctive form. The form would contain an officer’s details regarding the places where has served during his job tenure. It is believed that the Canadian high commission has recognized six districts in Punjab where maximum instances of anti-military activities are recorded.
Canada’s refusal to issue visas to the Indian security officials and India’s warning of retaliation will help Human Rights organizations in updating their reports on human rights situation in two countries diplomatically at loggerheads heads over the issue of visa denial.India has warned that it would retaliate by denying visa to Canadian officials who go to Afghanistan via this country.
The issuance of a visa is the prerogative of the host government. However while giving the reason for visa denial, Canada has questioned the role of security forces and security agencies in dealing with what India says domestic security situations. If India translates words into action, track record of many Canadian military men will come to the fore. Canada is already on job for two years by now. What else human rights activists need. At times, they can even approach concerned embassies for help to expose anti human faces in uniform.
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Kashmir Watch, May 27