Tiger course: No US visa for Muslim biologist
New Delhi : Delhi-based wildlife biologist Faiyaz Khudsar, the scientist in charge at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park, was handpicked along with 10 other people to attend a fully-funded tiger conservation course at the US-based Smithsonian institution. But while the others left for the US, Khudsar was not given a US visa. Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has written to the US Ambassador requesting him to take up the issue.
Despite getting a letter of recommendation from the Smithsonian, widely regarded as one of the best centres of learning in the world, the visa was not granted.
Khudsar, a PhD holder, who is involved in several ecology conservation projects in Delhi with the Delhi Development Authority, told The Indian Express: “I went through three interviews at the US embassy. I was verbally told that I would be given the visa. They said only the processing remained. Despite this, I was not given the visa and I finally asked for my passport to be returned. All I would like to know is why I was singled out from the entire group. I have written to the embassy asking them why I wasn’t given the visa.”
“This is a sovereign decision taken by the US Embassy. But I have written a letter to the US Ambassador asking him to look into the issue,” said Union Minister Jairam Ramesh.
The tiger conservation program is in its first year, introduced by the Global Tiger Initiative, which is partly funded by the World Bank. The chosen scholars were to be fully sponsored for the course module which started in India, with the final module being taught at the Smithsonian. The scholars are mid-career professionals from the government and the conservation sector.
“We do not comment on any individual cases. We take every application on a case by case basis. We don’t profile or discriminate based on gender and religion. In fact, in our visa application form, we don’t even have a column for specifying the applicants religion,” said a US Embassy spokesperson.
Yet the Embassy also said that it would be difficult for it to reveal to the applicant why the visa was rejected.
“In 97 per cent of the cases, we get back on the application on the same day. We also can’t be telling the applicant why his visa was rejected as it would take us months to explain to every applicant why he or she was rejected,” said the spokesperson.