N visits Bangladesh frequently for business. Business, in general, is good there. Right now, every company wants to capture the Bangladesh market. This visit, however, left us with a sour taste.
Naturally, N has a longer term visa with options for multiple entry. He’s recently got a new passport while his valid Bangladeshi visa is in his older passport. By all international standards, this’s a valid mode of travel as long as you’re carrying both the passports, which N was.
He was cleared at the New Delhi airport by both the Indian immigration officials & the Jet staff, and he boarded the plane. All hell broke loose once N landed at Dhaka. The Bangladeshi immigration officer was on his way to clearing N when his neighbor nudged & ‘reminded’ him that ‘such cases’ were to be denied entry. ‘such cases’ meant those where the visa is on an older passport.
N was detained, taken to another room & his travel documents (read passports) were taken away for a ‘decision’. He appraised me of the situation & I tweeted to Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister, banking on her ‘badass’ status of helping Indians in distress abroad. It’s been more than 24 hours now & we’ve still not got a reply from Mrs. Sushma ‘Superwoman’ Swaraj.
N got in touch with his business partners who tried to convince the immigration officers but the latter wouldn’t budge. I passed on the number of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka to N. When he reached them, they, in turn, asked him to request the immigration officers for a transit visa etc. No real action from their side.
The Bangladeshi immigration officers heard N speaking to the Indian High Commission & promptly asked him to not relay ‘wrong information’. According to them, N’s visa wasn’t a valid one; it was ‘cancelled’.
I tweeted to the Indian High Commission & am still waiting for any sort of response from their end. I reached out to my school friend settled in Dhaka. She helped in all ways she could but she was as surprised by this as we were.
By now, N’s partners & the Jet ground staff suggested N to not argue any further. Their reason – if the immigration officers got cheesed off, they would hand over N to the Home Ministry & then God knows what would happen.
The immigration officers decided they would deny entry to N & handed over his documents to the Jet staff. N & I, too, wanted him to be back. The struggle wasn’t worth the anxiety. N was put on the next available flight (& the last one) to India.
As N waited for his flight, the Jet staff told him that lately, the Bangladeshi immigration has denied entry to quite a few such Indian cases, even though there has been no official communication regarding this.
Later, the immigration officer came up to N, apologized & simply said – ‘India has been denying entry to our people too, on the same grounds’. It hit us then. It was a diplomatic tussle in which we, the common people, had got stuck.
This was the reason neither Mrs. Swaraj nor the Indian High Commission bothered to step in or even to respond. The reasons could have been only two – either they were helpless against the Bangladeshis (which we find hard to believe) or they knew it was deliberate for they were doing the same thing.
N reached Kolkata at 10:30 PM, slept cramped at the Kolkata airport & made his way back to New Delhi on a morning flight. When I saw his face today morning is when I could finally breathe.
Politicians & diplomats lead easy & protected lives. They would never know how terrible it is to have your loved ones in such a spot. But I hope they do face something like this – perhaps, then, they would start putting the citizens first, & not treat them as simply vote banks or objects of taxation.
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