The US consulate in Mumbai has conveyed their willingness to reconsider the visa applications of 12th Vishwa Hindi Sammelan (World Hindi Conference) delegates that were rejected earlier this week.
This was confirmed through an email from the US Consulate General's office in Mumbai. The conference organised by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan with the support of the External Affair ministry is slated for July 13 in New York.
It was also mentioned that the special effort was being made at the External Affairs ministry's request.
However the rejected delegates, all prominent personalities from the literary circuit, are still not happy with this cycle of events. According to them the ministry did not bother to inform the US Consulate in time about the conference and the delegates.
On the other hand the ministry spokesman's office says that all necessary steps had been taken to ensure that delegation members got their visas.
It will take some time to compile the list of delegates and pass them to the embassy and then to the consulate, it said, adding that the rejected delegates might have had their interview before the final list was compiled.
One of the delegates whose visa has been rejected is Nand Kishore Nautiyal, a freedom-fighter and working chairman of Maharashtra Rajya Hindi Sahitya Academy, literary advisor to the government of Maharashtra, a senior journalist and social activist.
"I was rejected on the grounds that my social, economic and familial ties were not acceptable and they had no guarantee that if granted entry to the country, I would return to India before the visa expires," Nautiyal said.
Nautiyal believes that the US consulate officials are not to be fully blamed for the entire matter. He was of the opinion that the officials had no clue about the conference and his delegate status when they interviewed him on June 23, which resulted in the rejection.
Nautiyal's contributions to the upliftment of the national language and his social activist status were scantily brushed off, he said.
"I was representing India and our national language. It was the ministry of external affairs that chose me to head the delegation. It's unfortunate that we were subjected to this sort of treatment. One of the main objectives of the conference is to get Hindi recognised as one of the languages in the United Nations. Why should we even think of overstaying there?" he asked.
The three-day long 8th World Hindi Conference is scheduled to be held at New York from July 13 to 15.
As far as the explanations given by the consulate for the denial of Nautiyal's visa application are concerned, the fact remains that none of them seem to hold water.
Nautiyal began his journalistic career way back in 1951 and has worked with a number of Hindi dailies and magazines, including Hindi Blitz where he served for 30 years.
He has also been invited for a number of shows on Akashvani and Doordarshan. This is all apart from the fact that he enjoys respect and fame as a literary figure.
Nautiyal has presided over a number of literary seminars and conferences, including the Akhil Bharatiya Lekhak Sammelan held in 1967.
Nautiyal also told rediff.com about his days as a freedom-fighter when he was an executive member of the Student's Congress, Delhi in 1946, he added.
"At the age of 15, I had participated in the Jail Bharo Andolan in support of the naval revolt of 1946," he stated.
Nautiyal has also been a regular contributor to a number of dialies and magazines published in Hindi and has authored a collection of poems titled Paripreksha. Presently, he is working on an essay called Alakananda.
Nautiyal is a resident of Mumbai, along with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. All his three children are well settled. His daughter is in Delhi with her husband, who is the principal of a reputed educational institution. One of his sons is settled in Dehradun, while the other runs an advertising agency in Mumbai.
"As far as I am concerned, my father was given baseless excuses by the consulate authorities. Otherwise, how can a person like him be rejected because of unsound social, economic and familial ties outside the US, ie, in India?" asks Rajeev Nautiyal, his son.
Nautiyal accused the US consulate of bullying Indians who apply for visas, but also added that the way our government and its agencies function makes us even more vulnerable to such bullying.
He was impressed with the response (though negative) he got from the US consulate. His written request to Anand Sharma, minister of state for external affairs, is still awaiting a response.
"Though now it seems they have followed it up, they (ministry) did not have the basic courtesy to respond properly. All they did was send a general email asking delegates who are yet to apply for visas to do so immediately before June 29. It had no reference to delegates whose applications were rejected at the visa counter," he said.
Ironically, this is not Nautiyal's maiden trip to the US. He had earlier been to New York to attend a Hindi poets' conference in 1993. He has also been to Canada, the UK, Italy, Libya, Russia, Finland, Suriname and North Korea as part of a number of journalist and literary delegations.
Even if the consulate is willing to reconsider its decision, it means that Nautiyal and his fellow delegates would have to reapply by submitting a new application form and photograph.
They will also have to remit the visa application fees, which comes close to Rs 4,500. This is because the US consulate's decisions on visa approval and rejection enjoy a 'non-appealable' status.