A passport seva kendra official in Lucknow was transferred on Thursday after he allegedly humiliated an inter-faith couple, asking the husband to convert to Hinduism and pulling up the wife for marrying a Muslim, when they went to the office with their passport applications.
Seeking action, Mohammad Anas Siddiqui and Tanvi Seth, who have been married for 12 years, wrote about their ordeal on Twitter and tagged External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday.
A day later, the Regional Passport Office in Lucknow transferred Vikas Mishra, the official accused of humiliating the couple.
Regional Passport Officer Piyush Verma said a show cause notice has been issued to the officer and he has been transferred with immediate effect.
Verma said the passports were issued to the couple on Thursday after he met them in his office.
“We have also sent the report to the ministry of external affairs for further action,” Verma told reporters in Lucknow, assuring necessary action against the official.
The RPO expressed regret over the incident and gave an assurance that it would not be repeated.
Responding to complaints from Siddiqui and Seth, secretary, consular, passport and visa division, D M Mulay said he had asked for a report from the RPO and would take appropriate action.
Seth thanked Swaraj, the RPO Lucknow and CPV, for “timely action” in a series of tweets on Thursday morning.
“Since the time we walked in to the RPO office this morning we were treated very well by Mr Piyush Verma and all the officials. They apologised for the misconduct of the official yesterday. They looked at our documents and issued passports to us in no time,” she tweeted.
“We have also sent the report to the ministry of external affairs for further action,” Verma said assuring necessary action against the official.
The RPO expressed regret over the incident and assured that it would not be repeated.
The incident occurred when the passport officer in Lucknow allegedly rejected the application of the interfaith couple, and asked the husband, Mohammad Anas Siddiqui, to convert to Hinduism.
In a series of tweets directed at External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Tanvi Seth, a Hindu who married Siddiqui in 2007, described how she and her husband were allegedly shamed by a passport officer named Vikas Mishra.
Recounting her tale, Tanvi wrote, “Hello ma’am I type this tweet with immense faith in justice and in you and ironically with a lot of anger / hurt and agony in my heart because of the way I was treated at the Lucknow passport office at Ratan Square by Mr Vikas Mishra the reason married a Muslim and not changed my name ever. He spoke to me very rudely and was loud enough for others to hear while discussing my case. I have never felt so harassed ever before. The other workers at the office acknowledged his rude demeanour.”
According to Seth, the issue cropped up because she had retained her maiden name after marrying a Muslim.
READ: Tanvi’s full message to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj
The couple had on Wednesday detailed their harrowing experience on Twitter.
Recounting the incident, Siddiqui told reporters in Lucknow that his was a case of re-issuance while his wife was seeking a new passport.
“The official’s behaviour at the counter was inappropriate... I was called by him and asked if my wife’s name is Tanvi Seth... he asked me to change my religion, name, take ‘pheras’ and only then things will be done."
According to Siddiqui, the official put his passport on hold and sent him to the assistant passport officer “who was very understanding”.
“I felt the official had some personal opinion about such marriages and could not keep them aside,” Seth said, hoping that such incidents do not happen with others.
Mishra, the official who allegedly harassed the couple, said in his defence that he was secular and had told Seth that her ‘nikahnama’ showed her name as Shazia Anas, which should be endorsed in her file.
“For this she refused. If she had consented... we would have sent it to the ‘A’ section for data modification. We have to see which person is taking the passport in what name. . There is documentary proof, how can we ignore that. I am secular and I have myself had an inter-caste marriage,” he told the media.
In a series of tweets to Swaraj, Seth on Wednesday spoke about the “high handedness” of the official and sought her intervention.
“@SushmaSwaraj hello ma’am I type this tweet with immense faith in justice and in you and ironically with a lot of anger/hurt and agony in my heart because of the way I was treated at the Lucknow passport office at Ratan Square by Mr Vikas Mishra the reason because I married a Muslim and not changed my name ever,” Seth tweeted.
She said that she had never imagined that there would be moral policing in a place like a passport office.
Mishra put both their passports on hold, she alleged.
“This is a clear grudge. I was shocked at this behaviour. I have never felt so insulted in the last 12 years of my marriage with my husband. It is my personal choice to choose a name I want to after marriage,” she tweeted.
Elaborating on the events on Wednesday, she told reporters that the official spoke “very loudly and in a very humiliating manner” before a lot of people.
“We had applied for a passport and after going through all the formalities, I went for the final verification and the official there made absurd queries over my marriage as I have not changed my surname...he said that it is duty of every woman to change her surname after marriage and used demeaning language besides making gestures...,” Seth alleged.
The RPO said the rules have been made flexible and producing a marriage certificate is no longer mandatory.
He also clarified that religion had nothing to do with the issuance of passports.
“We have been continuously counselling our staff about new laws,” he said.