The Puducherry foreign regional registration office’s order to send back Peter Heehs, US historian and author of The Lives Of Sri Aurobindo, has created ripples within the UPA government.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh shot a letter to home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday to revoke the visa cancellation order, pointing out that the US author has been living in India for 40 years.
Categorically stating that he has no personal rapport with Heehs and had met the author only thrice, that too at public events, Ramesh hailed him for authoring one of the best biographies on Sri Aurobindo. He said Hees had also written seven other books on India during his stay here.
Government sources, however, said that the Puducherry Foreigner Regional Registration Officer’s decision to cancel the historian’s visa hinged on violation of norms.
“Heehs’s visa had expired last year, but he was allowed to continue staying in India pending disposal of his representation,” an official said. “It is not as simple a case as it has been made out to be.”
Heehs was told to leave India before April 15.
This is not the first time Ramesh has spoken against the visa rules laid down by the union home ministry. While touring China, Ramesh spoke in favour of easier Indian visa norms for the Chinese, setting off a controversy back home.
It was earlier alleged that Heehs’s visa was cancelled at the behest of extremists who did not approve of his book on Sri Aurobindo.