Pakistanis allege harassment at foreigners registration office

Last Updated: Sun, Jan 27, 2013 17:14 hrs

Jaipur: Alleged bureaucratic hurdles at the foreigners registration office delayed by three days the arrival of a group of Pakistani teachers and students at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Two teachers and three students of Forman Christian College in Lahore Sunday went vocal about the "humiliation" they were subjected to by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office in Jaipur. They said they were told to go back to New Delhi for registration, delaying their participation in the festival.

"We arrived in Attari (in Punjab) on a train from Lahore on Jan 24 and reached Jaipur from New Delhi by taxi," Yakoob Khan Bangash, an assistant professor of history, told IANS.

"But the registration office here made us wait for six hours and then told us to go back to New Delhi for registration. The same day, we went back to New Delhi," the delegation leader said after attending a session, 'Neighbours, Walls and Bridges', at the festival.

He said it took them the entire Jan 25 to register at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office in Delhi. But they could not leave the city Jan 26 since it was a national holiday and the inter-state borders were sealed.

"We arrived in Jaipur this (Sunday) evening," he said.

He said Delhi Police told them that the registration office in Jaipur had harassed them.

"They could have registered us on Jan 24 if they wanted to," he said.

The registration office could not be contacted for comments.

Bangash said he brought the three undergraduates to Jaipur to help them understand how to organise a literature festival.

He said he was hosting Lahore's first literature festival in February and had invited Jaipur festival organisers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple.

"The students volunteered to work for the festival and I brought them to Jaipur to orient them," he said.

"Bureaucracy is the biggest hurdle in harmonious ties between India and Pakistan," Ejaz Hussain, the other professor in the contingent, told IANS.

Bangash said he could "solve the problem because he knew people in the capital".

Had the students come on their own, they would have missed the festival, he said.

The students -- Tarhub, Ali Zia Jaffri and Sarmad -- said they did not want to come to India again.

Pakistani poet Fahmida Riaz, who is attending the fest, said protagonists of culture, arts and literature "suffer continuously because of bureaucracy in the two countries".

"The artistic and intellectual community must reject the diplomatic corps and try to solve it on their own," she said.

Ties between India and Pakistan are strained following the killing of two Indian soldiers by the Pakistan army in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month. Right-wing groups had opposed the presence of Pakistani writers at the festival.

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