India's new visa penalty discriminates on religious lines, say Bangladesh officials

Recently, the Deputy High Commission office staff had to raise funds to send a “poor Bangladeshi woman” back to her country, after she overstayed by a day.

December 10, 2019 01:35 am | Updated 01:44 pm IST - Kolkata

Representational image.

Representational image.

A visa regulation, introduced by India about a year ago, has deeply irked Bangladesh.

Following the regulation, members of the majority community of Bangladesh, Muslims, are now paying a penalty which is at least 200 times higher compared to the minorities, mainly Hindus, if they overstay in India.

Bangladesh Foreign Ministry officials described the penalty structure as “discrimination on religious lines”. The officials said that they will raise the issue in the upcoming bilateral talks.

The issue surfaced during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Kolkata visit about two weeks ago. Bangladeshi cricketer Saif Hasan had overstayed his visa. He informed the Deputy High Commission office in Kolkata, which in turn spoke to the FRRO.

FRRO rules

The FRRO rules, posted on its website, noted that the “penalty of overstay” for “minority communities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan” is ₹500 for more than two years, ₹200 for 91 days to two years and ₹100 for up to 90 days.

On the other hand, if the person who overstayed does not belong to minority community, then the charges are in dollars — $500 (₹35,000), $400 (₹28,000) and $300 (₹21,000) — for the same duration of overstay.

“This means if Liton Das (a Bangladeshi cricketer, a Hindu) overstays for a day, then he will have to pay ₹100, whereas if the person’s name is Saif Hasan, he will have to pay over ₹21,000, which is what Mr. Hasan paid,” a senior Bangladeshi official told The Hindu .

Recently, the Deputy High Commission office staff had to raise funds to send a “poor Bangladeshi woman” back to her country. “She overstayed for a day and was asked to pay ₹21,000. She did not have money and we [DHC staff] had to raise the sum. Why should there be discrimination on religious lines?” the diplomat asked. Bangladesh is even more “hurt” as India’s new rule is equally applicable to Bangladesh and Pakistan. “Can India historically and morally bracket Pakistan and Bangladesh together?”

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