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PC orders review into historian's visa row

delhi Updated: Mar 31, 2012 23:31 IST
Gautam Chikermane
Gautam Chikermane
Hindustan Times
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Home minister P Chidambaram on Saturday asked for a review of an order denying American historian Peter Heehs a visa extension.

"This was noticed by me this morning," Chidambaram told reporters, referring to the HT report on how Heehs, an inmate of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, was being denied visa extension.

Heehs, who has been living in India for the past 41 years, was abruptly told by the foreigners' registration office (FRO) in Puducherry that his visa will not be extended anymore. The ostensible reason being his ninth book, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.

For years, religious fundamentalists have been harassing Heehs over his non-hagiographic and more academic treatment of Sri Aurobindo's well-received biography.

"I understand that the FRO has passed the order," Chidambaram said. "I have asked for a review. I am told that the file will be submitted to me on Monday, I will take a decision then."

The FRO, who signs as Aruna, could not be contacted. Repeated calls and SMSes to joint secretary (foreigners) GVV Sarma too went unanswered.

"I am very grateful to the home minister for consenting to review my case," Heehs said.

On Friday, 30 intellectuals - including historian Romila Thapar, academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta and poet and literary critic Arvind Krishna Mehrotra - had petitioned the PM and Chidambaram, asking them to review the decision.

"To extend the visa would be to do the right thing for Heehs, Sri Aurobindo and India," historian Ramachandra Guha said.

Former Karnataka governor and ex-home secretary TN Chaturvedi added his voice of support. "I do hope that Heehs is not hounded out like this."