A retired Border Security Force (BSF) trooper was denied a Canadian visa after a diplomat accused the paramilitary force of “war crimes” and being a “notoriously violent force”.
In a communication to Fateh Singh Pandher, a New Delhi-based Canadian High Commission diplomat has described the BSF as a “notoriously violent paramilitary unit” which is “responsible for war crimes in India”.
The communication, sent to the trooper based in Siar village, 25 km from Punjab’s industrial city of Ludhiana, accused him of not only working with “a unit engaged in systematic attacks on civilians” but also of not providing any evidence in his visa application “disassociating” himself from the force.
Pandher, 60, who retired 10 years ago, told IANS: “By writing such things to me to reject my visa, the Canadian High Commission has not attacked me but this is an attack on my country and my force.
“They accused me of being a member of the BSF in a way that sounded as if I had committed some sin. Even in the interview in April 2009, I was asked irrelevant questions about the BSF. They even accused the BSF of targeting a particular community for attacks and rapes.”
An upset Pandher said that he told the Canadian diplomat that the BSF never committed atrocities on innocent people and did not target any particular community since the force itself had people from all religions.
“But the official refused to agree with any of my comments,” Pandher told IANS.
A ministry of external affairs spokesperson in New Delhi said that “the matter has come to our attention. It has been taken up appropriately”.
According to Pandher, he had applied for an immigration visa in 2005 and had completed all the paperwork. His medical tests were done in 2008 and he was called for a personal interview in April 2009.
“On Dec 8, 2009, I was sent this letter from the high commission in New Delhi levelling allegations against the BSF,” Pandher, whose daughter is settled in Edmonton town in Canada, said.
The BSF, a paramilitary force for guarding India’s borders, has been stationed in the trouble-torn Jammu and Kashmir state for a number of years.
Canada is home to a large number of immigrants from India.
In recent years, Canada has been promoting immigration and tourism from Punjab and has even set up a consulate in Chandigarh to handle the rush of cases from the state.
Hundreds of immigration agencies operate out of Punjab and Chandigarh to help people, particularly youth, to migrate to Canada and other western countries.