Canada denies entry to retired CRPF officer over ‘rights abuse’, India takes up matter with Canadian govt

Hindustan Times, Ottawa | By
May 24, 2017 12:23 AM IST

Tejinder Singh Dhillon, who retired as CRPF inspector general of police in 2010, was denied entry at Vancouver airport as he had served with the Force, which had “committed widespread and systemic human rights abuses’

Relations between India and Canada could take another hit as a retired senior CRPF officer was denied entry at Vancouver airport, partly because immigration authorities deemed him to have served a government that engages in “terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide”.

Dhillon said the officers who interrogated him behaved in an “unreasonable and indecent manner”.(HT Photo)
Dhillon said the officers who interrogated him behaved in an “unreasonable and indecent manner”.(HT Photo)

Tejinder Singh Dhillon, who retired with the rank of inspector general of police from the Central Reserve Police Force in 2010, was declared inadmissible under a subsection of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act last week.

India said on Tuesday that it has taken up the matter with the government of Canada.

In a statement on Tuesday, Canada’s high commissioner to India Nadir Patel said, “We regret any inconvenience that may have been experienced by this individual and their family.”

A document given to Dhillon at the airport had mentioned that he served a government engaged in “terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity”. This startling condemnation of India was removed in a second report issued by immigration authorities at Vancouver airport. But they still held he could not be granted entry as he had served with the CRPF, which had “committed widespread and systemic human rights abuses, for example torture, arbitrary detention, murder and sexual assault”.

For his part, Canada’s envoy to India noted that Canada welcomes record number of Indians, and with such a large number of applications, “oversights on visa applications can happen which is regrettable.”

The envoy tried to explain the situation, saying, “Form letters in use by the Government of Canada include generic language taken from Canada’s legislation. In this case, the language does not reflect the Government of Canada’s policy toward India or any particular organization, including the Central Reserve Police Force of India.”

Speaking over phone from Ludhiana, Dhillon, who returned after being denied entry, said he had been travelling to Canada for more than 30 years including several times as a serving officer of the CRPF.

He said he had a Canadian visa issued in India that was valid till 2024.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said earlier on Tuesday that the issue has been taken up with the Canadian government.

“We have seen the news report regarding denial of entry by Canadian authorities to a senior retired Indian Police Officer. Such a characterisation of a reputed force like the CRPF is completely unacceptable. We have taken up the matter with the Government of Canada,” he said.

As he emplaned in Frankfurt for Vancouver after spending some time in Europe with his wife and daughter, the 67-year-old Dhillon never expected such a reception in Canada. “It is very upsetting. I have seen many crises, but this is very difficult to bear,” Dhillon said.

The ordeal began after he and his wife landed and were pulled aside during the initial immigration check.

Dhillon said the officers who interrogated him behaved in an “unreasonable and indecent manner”, accusing him of having either participated or having knowledge of human rights violations by the CRPF.

Dhillon, who retired as director of the Central Reserve Police Academy in Kadarpur, Gurgaon, and also served as director of the Internal Security Academy in Mount Abu, said: “There has not been a single incident of misconduct during my career.”

He was to spend a couple of days with friends in Vancouver before going to his daughter’s home in Seattle in the US and travelling back to Toronto for the main objective of the trip – to attend his niece’s wedding in the suburb of Brampton.

But his questioning in Vancouver on May 18 lasted nearly seven hours and only ceased on the intervention of a friend, who had been waiting outside the airport to pick up the Dhillons.

That friend, Shinder Purewal, a former Liberal Party politician and professor of political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia, was aghast at the treatment meted out to Dhillon.

He said, “This is really uncalled for, accusing a person without a shred of evidence. This is something serious for the government of Canada to think about. Has the government decided India is a sponsor of terrorism? That India commits genocide?”

Purewal managed to get the Dhillons a 12-hour respite from the immigration interrogation, during which they were allowed to go to his residence.

But that process commenced again the next morning, ending with Dhillon’s visa being cancelled and his being deported to India. His wife decided to return to India with him.

Dhillon said he did not want to relive his nightmare of travelling to Canada: “This is injustice, a very great humiliation. I’m very perturbed by this.”

While Indian armed forces officers and Punjab Police personnel have been denied visas by Canada in the past on the grounds of rights violations, this episode has taken that attitude to another level, as it brands India a serial abuser of human rights.

(With inputs from HT correspondent in New Delhi)

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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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