British MP Debbie Abrahams (Photo Credit: Reuters)
British MP Debbie Abrahams, who has been critical of India's move to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution that gave a status to Jammu and Kashmir, on Monday claimed that 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.
Abrahams, a Labour Party MP, said 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Group for Kashmir, said she was travelling on a valid e-visa to India to visit family and friends but her visa was revoked without explanation.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. 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 UK 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 here on Monday morning and was informed that her e-visa been cancelled.
In her statement, Abrahams said she had presented herself at the immigration desk along with her documents and e-visa.
“...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 aggressive shouting at me to 'come with me'. I told him not to speak to me like that and was then 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.
In response to some of the comments I was planning to visit Indian family in Dehli accompanied by my Indian aide. 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 https://t.co/YvCOPDmfeB— Debbie Abrahams (@Debbie_abrahams) February 17, 2020
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.”
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.
If things are fine in #Kashmir, shouldn't the Govt encourage critics to witness the situation themselves to put their fears to rest? Instead of conducting tours for pliant MEPs &polite Ambassadors alone, surely the head of a ParliamentaryGroup on the subject is worth cultivating? https://t.co/vMtcAXCDb9— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) February 17, 2020
“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.
(With PTI inputs)