British MP Debbie Abrahams denied entry into India

British MP Debbie Abrahams denied entry into India

Officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said she was informed that her e-visa on arrival had been cancelled even before she flew to India

British MP Debbie Abrahams (@Debbie_abrahams Twitter)

British MP Debbie Abrahams, a critic of Narendra Modi government's move to scrap special status for Jammu and Kashmir, was on Monday denied entry into India with authorities saying she did not possess a valid visa to enter the country.

Abrahams, a Labour Party MP who also chairs a Parliamentary Group for Kashmir, had landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here on an Emirates flight from Dubai at 9 AM along with an Indian aide Harpreet Upal. She had an electronic visa (e-visa) issued last October with a one-year validity.

Officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said she was informed that her e-visa on arrival had been cancelled even before she flew to India. Despite this, they said, she flew into the country. No reason was provided on the cancellation of the e-visa.

"I have Indian relatives who I was meant to be visiting with and have Indian members of staff accompanying me. The reason I got into politics is advance social justice and human rights for all. I will continue to challenge my own government and others on these issues," she tweeted. She was on two-day visit to India. 

Abrahams had written to India's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, criticising the move on Article 370 saying it "betrays the trust of the people" of Kashmir.

Targeting the government, senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the conduct was "really unworthy of a democracy and guaranteed to give us a far worse press than if she had been admitted". 

"Government claims situation is normal in Kashmir. Why is the government then so scared of critics? If things are fine in Kashmir, shouldn't the government encourage critics to witness the situation themselves to put their fears to rest? Instead of conducting tours for pliant MEPs and polite Ambassadors alone, surely the head of a Parliamentary Group on the subject is worth cultivating?" he tweeted.

In a statement, she said she presented herself at the immigration desk with her documents including e-visa. Her photograph was taken and then the official looked at his screen and started shaking his head, she said.

"Then he told me my visa was rejected, took my passport and disappeared for about 10 minutes. When he came back he was very rude and aggressive, shouting at me to 'come with me'. I told him not to speak to me like that and was then taken to a cordoned off area marked as a Deportee Cell. He then ordered me to sit down and I refused. I didn't know what they might do or where else they may take me, so I wanted people to see me," she said.

She then telephoned her sister-in-law's cousin who got in touch with the British High Commission. She also said she tried to find out why the visa had been revoked and if she could get a visa on arrival "but no one seemed to know". 

"Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn't know and was really sorry about what had happened...I'm prepared to let the fact that I've been treated like a criminal go, and I hope they will let me visit my family and friends," she said.