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Updated: May 25, 2010 00:21 IST

Terming BSF "notoriously violent", Canada rejects ex-constable's visa

Vinay Kumar
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Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol in the dense fog near a fencing at the India-Pakistan international border in Ranbir Singh Pura, outskirts of Jammu. File photo
AP
Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers patrol in the dense fog near a fencing at the India-Pakistan international border in Ranbir Singh Pura, outskirts of Jammu. File photo

Indian officials told The Hindu that the Canadian letter, signed by Eric Verner, First Secretary (Immigration) in the Canadian High Commission in Delhi was an affront to the country and the government and that a serious view had been taken of it at the highest levels.

The Canadian government's decision to deny a former BSF constable a permanent visa on the grounds that the Border Security Force - from which he retired in 2000 - is a "notoriously violent paramilitary unit - engaged in systematic attacks on civilians" has vitiated relations with Ottawa barely weeks before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is due to visit Canada.

"I received a letter from the Canadian High Commission on December 8 last year informing me that my visa application has been rejected. It said that visa was being denied to me since I was a member of the BSF, which it accused of committing crimes against humanity", Fateh Singh Pandher, now in his late sixties, told The Hindu on Friday on phone from Ludhiana.

The former BSF constable said that he, along with his wife, had visited Canada in 2005 for six months and then returned home. "Since one of my daughters is settled in Canada, I and my wife also wanted to live with her and applied for permanent visa in 2008 but in 2009 my application was rejected because of my former employment in the BSF," he said.

Mr. Pandher said that he took up the matter with the BSF headquarters, which later drew the attention of the Home Ministry and Ministry of External Affairs to it.

Indian officials told The Hindu that the Canadian letter, signed by Eric Verner, First Secretary (Immigration) in the Canadian High Commission in Delhi was an affront to the country and the government and that a serious view had been taken of it at the highest levels. "The decision to grant or deny a visa is Canada's sovereign right", an official said but "they have no right to pass this kind of judgment on the BSF, which is one of our border guarding security forces".

Though the letter to Mr. Pandher was sent last December, it was only brought to the notice of the government recently.

"We are not keeping quiet about this", an official said, adding that the issue had already been taken up with Canada. There was added sensitivity because the Prime Minister is due to visit Toronto for G-20 summit in June.

On the record, all that the MEA spokesperson was prepared to say was "the matter has come to the attention of the Ministry and has been appropriately taken up with the Canadian side."

The Canadian letter told Mr. Pandher that he was being denied a visa "because there is reason to believe you are a member of the inadmissible class of persons" involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity. It noted that he had been a part of the BSF from 1975 to 2000, and that one-third of the force is deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. Citing "open source research", it said the "notoriously violent" BSF has been engaged in "systematic attacks on civilians and in systematically torturing suspected criminals".

The letter said Mr. Pandher had "admitted" being aware of the fact that the BSF was responsible for committing crimes against humanity "as you had read about it in the newspaper". But since he had not disassociated himself from the BSF despite being aware of these crimes, he was an accomplice and was thus ineligible to enter Canada.

Keywords: BSFCanada

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Eric Verner, Cananadian High Commission's First Secretary (Immigration) who turned down Mr Pandher's application for permanent visa sounded undiplomatic in his letter which appeared to be lending sympathy towards Kashmiris as being victims of notorious attacks and systematically tortured by BSF under Indian rule.This is a serious and unfounded allegation. Obviously too, he has failed in carrying out his official duty correctly. No official of an embassy or high commission would fail to know the functions of a country's national security force(s). It would seem Verner was under an influence of political bias. He is undoubtedly an affront to our country and government and the recognition of his diplomatic status in the Canadian High Commission should be withdrawn.

from:  Udham Dillon
Posted on: May 23, 2010 at 10:52 IST

It is ironic that the Canadian Government is pontificating about violence and the B.S.F.
This is the same group that has been trying unsuccessfully to hide the Canadian army's role in facilitating torture of civilians in Afghanistan.

from:  Raghunath Kumaran
Posted on: May 22, 2010 at 23:19 IST

Canada has been following double standards in that it denies a residency visa to a BSF constable while it has allowed Nazi war criminals and collaborators to settle down in Canada. One immediate case that comes to mind is that of Karol Sidor a known Nazi collaborator and commander of the Hlinka Guard.

from:  Amit De
Posted on: May 22, 2010 at 19:06 IST

Absolutely agree with Ayan Nandy. Canada is in the right to make the determination about BSF based on open source research which I presume includes Amnesty/HRW too.

from:  raza
Posted on: May 22, 2010 at 18:20 IST

Though I sympathize with Mr. Panther for being discriminated because of the organization he served, I cannot deny that such a decision by Canada might actually help our policy makers to be respectful of human rights of our own citizens. I wish Canada should not display double standards in denying permanent visa to people serving in organizations known for poor human rights records. I hope Canada should also deny visa to those who have served the Israeli Defence Force, well known for targeting infants and pregnant Palestinian women in Gaza strip.

from:  Ayan Nandy
Posted on: May 22, 2010 at 11:08 IST

BSF should be take up the case with Canadian High Commission as to how they passed such comments.

from:  Shree Prakash
Posted on: May 22, 2010 at 09:36 IST

The attitude of foreigners towards Indians is indeed bad. But so many Indians desire to go and live abroad. It is simply because life in this country is so woefully short of all the finer things in life. The Government should try to improve the conditions of living in India.

from:  S N IYER
Posted on: May 22, 2010 at 07:17 IST

The conclusion that BSF was responsible for committing crimes against humanity in Jammu and Kashmir is based on "open source research" and is a hasty conclusion.I am sure that the canadian authorities have not understood the complete picture in J&K and the role the BSF has played there in maintaining peace and stability which were threatened by the militancy sponsored by our neighbouring country.
Hope this matter will not become a thorn in the flesh of Indo-Canadian relations and will be resolved soon.

from:  Karunakar
Posted on: May 22, 2010 at 04:48 IST
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