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Canada should apologise to Indians, BSF: former trooper

Ludhiana, May 22:

Canada should apologise to Indians and to the Border Security Force (BSF) for using "insulting" language, says a retired trooper who was refused a visa because he had worked for a "notoriously violent force".

"They have not said anything against me. But the Canadian officials have insulted the BSF and my country. I want the Canadian government to apologise to the people of India and to the BSF," Pandher told IANS at Sihaar village, 25 km from Punjab’s industrial city of Ludhiana, even as Canada said it was reviewing the case.

Pandher said he was "very happy" and "satisfied" with the media coverage of the case. "I and my family are very happy at the way this has been highlighted," Pandher said.

Pandher had wanted to shift to Canada to join his daughter who lives in Edmenton town. But he was denied a Canadian visa after a Canadian diplomat called the BSF a "notoriously violent force" which is "responsible for war crimes in India".

The communication, sent in December 2009, accused him of not only working with "a unit engaged in systematic attacks on civilians" but of not giving any evidence in his visa application "disassociating" himself from the force.

The Canadian authorities have now said they are "reviewing" the rejection of visa to Pandher after the decision sparked off a diplomatic row.

According to Pandher, he applied for an immigration visa in 2005 and completed all the paperwork. His medical tests were done in 2008, and he was called for a personal interview in April 2009.

"They accused me of being a member of the BSF in a way that sounded as if I had committed some sin. Even in the interview in April 2009, I was asked irrelevant questions about the BSF. They even accused the BSF of targeting a particular community for attacks and rapes."

An upset Pandher said he told the Canadian diplomat that the BSF never committed atrocities on innocent people and did not target any particular community since the force itself had people from all religions.

"But the official refused to agree with any of my comments," Pandher told IANS.

An external affairs ministry spokesman in New Delhi said that "the matter has come to our attention. It has been taken up appropriately".

The BSF is responsible for guarding India's borders. But it is often deployed for internal security duty across the country, including in Jammu and Kashmir.

Pandher said that he had written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and BSF director general after which the issue came to light.

Canada is home to a large number of immigrants from India. In recent years, Canada has been promoting immigration and tourism from Punjab. It has set up a consulate in Chandigarh.

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       Fateh Singh Pandher