Fasting NRI crusades for blacklisted Sikhs’ cause

New Delhi: In view of the concerns related to the “Blacklist of NRI Sikhs”, Iqbal Singh Bhatti, an NRI and president of a Paris-based NGO called Human Rights Aurore-Dawn Association, has urged the Indian government to take up the matter with foreign governments in the countries where lakhs of such people are faced with problems in returning to their native country, India.

Hailing from Punjab, Iqbal (59) has been sitting on an indefinite fast since yesterday at Jantar Mantar here to push for his three major demands— to grant visas to the rejected cases of political asylum and their families to return to India, ensure justice is delivered to the 1984 victims and release of prisoners who remain lodged in various jails on various charges across the country.

Calling for transparency in the system, Iqbal said “The Delhi High Court had ordered the Central government to take a decision on allowing entry to blacklisted Sikhs within two months but nothing has happened. We demand that the Centre should make the entire blacklist public on website.”

According to Iqbal, whose old parents reside in Kapurthala district and children in Paris, there are scores of families who are facing hassles at the hands of embassies in respective countries on account of visa renewal. “There are hundreds of political asylum cases in France and other parts of Europe who are having a tough time due to non-sanctioning of visas,” Iqbal said.

Noting that innocent people have been allegedly included on the list which the Central government had sent to Punjab, he added, “Seventy per cent of the names and addresses are incorrect and this has been communicated to the government at the Centre. They are living in fear due to the tag of being anti-nationals.”

Senior advocate HS Phoolka, counsel for petitioner in 1984 Sikh genocide and who has also fought cases of blacklisted NRIs, said, “Foreign citizens are refused visas by the Indian government randomly and in many cases on unfounded allegations and that too for over 15-20 years even as there had been no objectionable activities against them. The government should not make people run to courts and review the blacklist.”

As per Phoolka, they (such NRIs) should be informed about the reasons for the refusal of visa and why their names feature on the list with many cases being those related to similarity of names, anti-India activities or justice for 1984 Sikh genocide victims.

“This is really absurd and arbitrary on the part of the embassies and people should be communicated about the allegations so that they can represent their case in the court. Many others languish in jails. They should be given a chance to mainstream as normalcy has returned in areas that saw militancy wave (Punjab),” observed Phoolka.

At the site, supporters of Anna Hazare had come today while there were representatives from Sikh Student Federation and Justice for Victims who expressed their solidarity on the first day of Iqbal’s fast on Saturday.

Source: HT

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