Passports Withheld Because They 'Look Nepali': Really?!
Santosh and Heena weren't granted their passports. Why? Simply because, according to a sidenote on their files, they 'look Nepali'.
Santosh and Heena are two sisters in their twenties from Ambala, Haryana. They have an elder sister, Meera Kumar. Meera already holds an Indian passport. Santosh and Heena, hoping to go abroad to work and study, also applied for their own passports.
All members of their family have Aadhar cards, ration cards and voter IDs. During the process of applying for passports, they furnished officials with all these documents.
And yet, Santosh and Heena weren't granted their passports. Why? Simply because, according to a sidenote on their files, they 'look Nepali'.
This statement had been made at the Regional Passport Office in Chandigarh, where they had made their applications. Passport Offices do often make notes on applications on whether the citizenship of an applicant is beyond doubt.
Making comments on the basis of someones appearance alone, despite having all their other documents in order, is not the norm.
After being told that their passports are withheld, the two sisters approached the Haryana home minister who asked authorities to look into the matter. Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij, on Thursday, directed authorities to initiate an enquiry into their citizenship so that their rights could be established. The Regional Passport Officer Sibash Kabiraj has been asked to spearhead the enquiry.
If the Regional Passport Office is not convinced of their Indian citizenship, their passports will be revoked. What could happen next is uncertain.
In the context of the Citizenship Amendment Act, as well as the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens, this incident seems worrisome. This could be the first domino to fall in a regime that marks the isolation and identification of citizens as illegal, based on their appearance, or their inability to assimilate into what the State believes is the ideal citizen.