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Canada denied visa to senior Punjab police officer

Source: PTI
May 28, 2010 14:26 IST
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A senior Punjab police officer on Friday said he was denied a visa by Canadian authorities as he had served in areas where counter-insurgency operations were carried out in the state during the militancy period.

Patiala's Senior Superintendent of Police Ranbir Singh Khatra said that it was the prerogative of the Canadian government to deny or grant him a visa but the content used in the denial letter was not acceptable.

"The Canadian embassy in India twice denied me the visa only because I had served in areas where counter-insurgency operations had been carried out," he said.

The Canadian high commission, over the last few years, has denied visas to a number of senior serving and retired officials of the armed forces and intelligence establishments, claiming that their organisations or they themselves have served in sensitive areas like Jammu and Kashmir and engaged in violence and human rights violations.

"I am proud to have contributed to keeping peace in the region as part of Punjab police in that (militancy) period. I felt really bad that at a time when the world is fighting terrorism, Canada is targeting us -- people who actually fought terrorism," Khatra said.

"There is no case against me, nor have I ever been convicted by any court of law, so how can they make such comments," he asked.

"As far as human rights are concerned, our country has the best record as compared to others, following which our forces have the largest share in United Nations peacekeeping forces deployed in other countries," he said.

Khatra was denied visas by Canada twice, in 2008 and 2009. On the first occasion, Khatra had wanted to travel to Canada on a personal visit while on the second occasion; he wanted to participate in the golf event of the World Police and Fire Games in British Columbia in 2009.

Khatra said that he had earlier won the runners-up trophy at the All India Police Golf Tournament.

Khatra, a recipient of the President's Police Medal in 1993, he had served in Tarn Taran, Mansa and Batala in Amritsar during the counter-insurgency operations against militants in Punjab.

In a letter signed by Canada Embassy's Vice-Consul Sharon Hogan, Khatra was informed, "You are at the very least willfully blind to the crime against humanity committed by the Punjab police in Amritsar district. During the investigation, arrest and interrogation, you may have been directly involved or at the very least helped in increasing the effectiveness of the Punjab police in Amritsar district, at the time when large number of police forces in the area were involved in the commission of crime against humanity."

"Also, the government made little progress in holding hundreds of police and security officials accountable for serious human rights abuses committed during the counter-insurgency operations in Punjab, despite the presence of a Special Investigating Commission," the letter added.

Several Punjab Police officers, including Khatra and Additional Director General (Crime) Rajan Gupta, had been denied visas by Canada for their alleged involvement in human rights abuses.

Some other Punjab police personnel, including superintendents of police Devinder Singh and Gurdeep Singh Pannu, and a head constable were asked to furnish certificates from the government declaring that they had not violated human rights, along with a list of all the positions they had held over the past 15 years.

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