Revoke, apologize for "unceremonious" deportation of ex-Swiss diplomat from India: Sushma Swaraj told

Kurt Vögele
By Our Representative
Forty-five civil rights leaders, academics and professionals have asked India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to immediately revoke what they call “unceremonious” deportation of veteran ex-Swiss diplomat and an old India hand, Kurt Vögele, from the Ahmedabad airport on January 22, seeking an apology from the government for the “unreasonable” treatment meted out to him.
In a letter, posted to Swaraj on Tuesday, they have said that the “damage” caused by the action to the country’s image abroad could be repaired only by the “gracious gesture” to invite Vögele to visit India in “early future.”
The letter quotes media reports suggesting his friendship with colleagues in the Navsarjan Trust, a Dalit rights NGO, denied Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license in December 2016, was perhaps the reason why he was denied entry into India.
Suggesting this was a spurious excuse, the letter insists, “In all our democratic country and under our Constitution this can surely be no grounds for deportation. The Trust was denied a renewal of its FCRA licence in December 2016. If this were a reason, it would be a breach of the right to free association and also amount to victimization of the Trust.”
The letter has been signed, among others, by Greenpeace India CEO Aakar Patel, National Foundation for India executive director Amitabh Behar, Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, Janvikas chairperson Gagan Sethi, former National Institute of Design director Ashoke Chatterjee, danseuse Dr Mallika Sarabhai, former Planning Commission member Dr Syeda Hameed, and North Eastern Social Research Centre director Dr Walter Fernandes.
The letter reminds Swaraj that Vögele was told he had “no right” to enter India, even though he had a valid visa, issued by the Indian consulate in Geneva only in December 2017. It adds, “During his hours of waiting in limbo at the airport, Vögele was denied the use of a phone and not allowed to inform friends who had come to receive him about his situation.”
It adds, “His passport was confiscated and returned to him only on return to Geneva. You can imagine the shock, apprehension and anxiety of a 75 year old man at being so undeservedly isolated and stripped of his right of entry.”
Pointing that “a person of Vögele’s age and stature had to face humiliation is difficult to comprehend”, the letter says, the ex-Swiss diplomat has been serving with the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), a Swiss Foreign Ministry arm, is “a consistent and valued friend of India for over 40 years.”
“His 13 years in India were spent in the main serving as Country Director of the SDC which is an arm of the Swiss Foreign Ministry”, the letter says, adding, “He has also spent several years in charge of the Asia Division of SDC in Berne, before his last spell as Country Director (Counsellor) in the Swiss Embassy in Delhi, from 2000 to 2005.”
A person who has worked, among others with MS Swaminathan, former director-general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, partnered with the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), NABARD, and was instrumental in assisting the 2001 Kutch earthquake, Vögele in a protest memo to the Indian ambassador in Switzerland said his reasons for coming to Ahmedabad to meet “old and profoundly cherished friends”, even as “working and exchanging with them on themes of Human and Institutional Development.”

Comments

Sagar Rabari said…
This is very serious, government of the day cannot convenient stand regarding people's connections with grass roots institutions like Navsarjan.