The state government had demanded that 62 names be deleted from the list, maintained by Foreigners Division of Union Home Ministry which is not in the public domain.
BACK IN his native village in Jalandhar for the first time in 25 years, Raghbir Singh’s excitement is tinged with sadness. The 58-year-old NRI from UK is among the beneficiaries of the Centre’s decision to delete names on a blacklist, prepared during the terrorism years in Punjab, of people who were barred entry into the country.
Raghbir was blacklisted by the Centre as he was an Editor of a newspaper advocating Sikh rights during the trouble-torn days. His name was deleted after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the UK, where he had promised the Punjabi diaspora, who had been barred entry into the country, that their names would be taken off the list.
“I was denied a visa back home. My only fault was that I was the Editor of a Sikh newspaper. I am excited at being here but feel saddened at the way I was denied entry for so many years. It was a violation of human rights when I was not even wanted in any terrorism-related case,” said Raghbir, the MD of the UK-based Akal Channel.
Rights activist Jaspal Singh Manjhpur and lawyer H S Phoolka said hundreds of Sikh NRIs had been blacklisted by the Centre, intelligence agencies, embassies and high commissions in various countries, and prevented from entering the country. They claimed that the Centre recently deleted 36 names on the “secret list” but added that it was too little and too late.
“I am legally assisting at least 15 such NRIs, who are being denied entry into the country. They land here but are sent back on the pretext that they have been blacklisted,” AAP’s Phoolka said.
Manjhpur said it was ironical that even after many prime accused in terrorism cases were acquitted, the co-accused, who sought political asylum in countries like the UK, Canada and US, are still being blacklisted. Many of them are not even a part of the secret list of the union government that has been pruned. They have been barred entry because of inputs by intelligence agencies, he said. “Even those booked and were part of that separatist movement have returned to the mainstream now. Why should they not be allowed to come home?” asked Manjhpur.
The state government had demanded that 62 names be deleted from the list, maintained by Foreigners Division of Union Home Ministry which is not in the public domain. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal have been taking up the case with the union ministry. Sukhbir had written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh last December, stating that the blacklist mentioned 63 NRIs for the purpose of visa restrictions.
The identity of 31 persons could not be ascertained in the absence of complete particulars. The latest list was left with 32 people and the Punjab government has been demanding the deletion of the names of those not required for any crime in Punjab.
The former UPA government had in 2011 deleted 142 of the 169 names. The state government had then demanded a frequent review on the only 27 names. Sukhbir had also demanded that the details, including the names of the remaining persons on the list, should be put on the official website of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to “eliminate any further exploitation of Sikhs”.