A Swedish passport that Bangladeshi novelist and poet Taslima Nasreen holds might disqualify her from seeking political refugee status in India, a status that the BJP wants for her. Taslima’s visa for her stay in India was granted on her Swedish passport, which she had got when Dhaka refused to extend the validity of her native passport.
“How can she be granted asylum because of persecution in Bangladesh when she has a Swedish passport?” asked a government official, requesting anonymity. Taslima has, however, not been asking for political asylum but has requested citizenship, or at least residency in India.
India is not a signatory to international conventions on refugees but she did not appear to qualify as a refugee even under global agreements.
The 1951 convention on status of refugees defines a refugee as a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for a variety of reasons, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or unwilling to return. She would also not have qualified the definition of a refugee under a proposed law drafted by civil society organisations that is under consideration by the central government for the same reason.
But Delhi’s consistent refusal to accede to international conventions or enact a national law on refugees might come in handy for the exiled author.
In the absence of a stipulated legal framework, the executive has untrammeled powers to grant or refuse refugee status to foreigners in trouble, especially if there is political expediency.