A British Parliamentarian, Debbie Abrahams, who has been critical of India’s move to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, on Monday said she was denied entry despite a valid visa after she landed at Delhi airport and deported to Dubai from where she had flown into the Indian capital.
Labour Party MP Debbie Abrahams claim that she had a valid visa was rebutted by India’s home ministry which said she was informed about her e-visa being cancelled.
Abrahams, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir, said she was travelling on a valid e-visa to India to visit family and friends but her visa was revoked without explanation.
A home ministry spokesperson in New Delhi said the British parliamentarian had been duly informed that her visa was cancelled and she arrived in Delhi despite knowing this.
When contacted, Abrahams said she “had not received any emails before February 13”.
After that, she had been travelling and was away from office.
Her office in the United Kingdom confirmed she was put on a plane to Dubai, which is where she flew into Delhi from earlier on Monday.
“We are in contact with the Indian authorities to understand why Deborah Abrahams MP was denied entry to India. We provided consular assistance to her whilst she was in New Delhi Airport,” said a British high commission spokesperson in New Delhi.
Abrahams’ e-visa was reportedly issued last October, and was valid until October 2020.
Recounting her experience at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, she said in a statement on Twitter that she arrived in New Delhi on Monday morning and was informed that her e-visa been cancelled.
Abrahams said when she landed around 8.50 this morning, she was told by Delhi airport officials that the e-visa issued last October and valid until October 2020 had been rejected. “Along with everyone else, I presented myself at the immigration desk with my documents including my e-visa, had my photograph taken,” she said.
Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, was travelling to India on a personal visit. After she landed in Delhi on Monday on an Emirates flight, she was told that her visa had been rejected.
“…the official looked at his screen and started shaking his head. Then he told me my visa was rejected took my passport and disappeared for about 10 minutes. When he came back, he was very rude and shouted at me to come with him. I told him not to speak to me like that,” she said.
Then she was reportedly taken to a cordoned off area marked as a deportee cell.
He then ordered me to sit down and I refused. I didn’t know what they might do or where else they may take me, so I wanted people to see me,” the British MP said.
The immigration officer disappeared again, she said, adding that she phoned her sister-in-law’s cousin who she was going to be staying with.
“Kai got in touch with the British High Commission and he tried to find out what was going on,” she wrote on Twitter.
She said later several immigration officials came to her but none of them knew why her e-visa was cancelled. “Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn’t know and was really sorry about what had happened. So now I am just waiting to be deported… unless the Indian Government has a change of heart. I’m prepared to let the fact that I’ve been treated like a criminal go, and I hope they will let me visit my family and friends,” Abrahams said.
Reacting to Abrahams’ deportation, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor asked why the government was scared of critics if it claimed the situation in Kashmir was normal.
“Reacting to the British MP Who Criticised Govt on J&K Stopped At Airport: conduct really unworthy of a democracy & guaranteed to give us a far worse press than if she had been admitted,” he said on Twitter.
Abrahams was among a group of MPs who issued formal letters following the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 in August last year.
“We are gravely concerned at the announcement by Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, that Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, has been removed by Presidential Order,” the Opposition MP had noted in her letter to the UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab at the time.
Reacting to Twitter buzz, some of it uncharitable on account of her criticism of India on the Article 370 move, the MP sad she was planning to visit her Indian family in Delhi. “I became a politician to promote social justice & human rights FOR ALL. I will continue to challenge my own Government & others while injustice & abuse is unchecked,” she tweeted.
On her Twitter page, Abrahams has posted a letter she apparently wrote on August 5 last year, the day the government ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and enforced severe restrictions to avoid any violent protests.
The MP said as the chair of a group on Kashmir, she had written to the Indian envoy in the UK expressing grave concerns on the Article 370 move.
Abrahams’ timeline has several posts critical of the Kashmir decision.
Last August, she also wrote to the UK foreign secretary, saying the parliamentary group was “gravely concerned” about the decision to strip the disputed region of its special status, adding that it “betrayed the trust of the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.