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Kolkata: Immigration officials deport 12-year-old
George Joseph in New York | August 11, 2007 13:38 IST
A 12-year-old girl poses a security threat to India, according to immigration officials at Kolkata airport.
That's why they denied a temporary landing permit to 12-year-old Medha Ghosh and deported her, along with her mother, within an hour of their landing.
Sreemati, daughter of three-time MP Samar Guha, and her daughter Medha had arrived in Flight LH750 for Kolkata. Medha, an American citizen, was sent back because she did not have her old US passport with the Indian visa.
"I salute their efficiency. They decided that a 12-year-old child is a threat to India in such a short time," said her father Tirthankar Ghosh, a chemical scientist working in Philadelphia.
"After arriving in Kolkata on July 18, my wife realised that she had forgotten to take my daughter's old US passport. The old passport had her Indian visa, which is valid till 2013," said Tirthankar.
"My wife repeatedly requested the Indian immigration authorities to grant my daughter a temporary landing facility for 24 hours. But all her pleas fell on deaf ears," he added.
Tirthankar called the immigration officials in Kolkata the moment he heard about the incident.
He assured them that he had Medha's passport and visa and he would fax a copy to the officials in a few minutes.
But the immigration officials told him that they had already called their superior about the matter, and he had denied Medha the permission to land.
In spite of Tirthankar's tearful pleadings to the officials, they didn't change their mind.
"They put my weeping daughter and wife on the same Lufthansa flight back to Philadelphia, without allowing either of them to even say hello to my waiting mother," he recalled with anger.
"If they had checked their records, they would have realised that my wife and daughter have been visiting India every year for the last 12 years," said Tirthankar.
"I am dumbfounded about how the Indian authorities thought a 12-year-old girl with a valid US passport, who is visiting India with her Indian mother, is such a high security risk," he added.
Samar Guha, who passed away in 2002, was a leading politician of his time. He is also known for his book on Netaji Subhash Chabdra Bose.
Tirthankar says his wife has fallen ill after traveling non-stop for almost 48 hours.
Incidentally, Sri Lankan Higher Education Minister Muhammed Mustafa also had to face a similar situation at Cochin International airport on June 27. He had forgotten to bring his old passport, which had the Indian visa.
However, Mustafa was allowed to leave the airport when the superintendent of police granted him a temporary landing permit for 24 hours after accepting a $40 fee.
"I guess the compassion and kindness of Indian officials is reserved for politicians only. This incident has left a tremendous emotional scar on our family," said Tirthankar bitterly.
"I hope bureaucrats at higher levels hear about this incident, so that another 12-year-old doesn't have to go through the same ordeal," he added.
A similar incident had provoked a public outcry in Decmber 2006, when immigration officials at Mumbai airport had deported seven-year-old Viraj Shriwardhankar and his three-and-a-half-year-old brother Vrishabh.