rising bigotry

Lucknow: Passport officer who allegedly harassed interfaith couple transferred

The officer allegedly asked the man to convert to Hinduism, told the woman to change her name in all documents or her passport application would be rejected.

An officer at the Passport Seva Kendra in Uttar Pradesh’s capital Lucknow was transferred on Thursday after he allegedly harassed an inter-faith couple on Wednesday, reported the Hindustan Times.

Mohammad Anas Siddiqui and his wife Tanvi Seth complained that an officer, Vikas Mishra, had asked Siddiqui to convert to Hinduism and instructed Seth to change her name in all her documents, according to The Indian Express. The couple then tweeted to Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, asking her to intervene.

“I have never felt so insulted in the last 12 years of my marriage with my husband,” tweeted Seth. “It is my personal choice to choose a name I want to after marriage. This is our family matter...” The couple work in a private firm in Noida and have a six-year-old daughter.

DM Mulay, secretary to passport, visa and overseas Indian affairs at the Ministry of External Affairs, replied to Seth’s tweet, saying he had sought a report from the Regional Passport Officer and that “appropriate action” would be taken.

Regional Passport Officer Peeyush Verma confirmed the incident. “Their passports have been issued,” he told ANI. “A showcause notice has been issued to the official who was at fault, action will also be taken.”

Siddiqui told The Indian Express that he and his wife had applied for passports on June 19 and got an appointment for Wednesday to complete paperwork. “We cleared the first two stages and our files were then sent to counter C, which is the last stage to complete formalities.”

Vikas Mishra, who was the officer at Counter C, allegedly asked Seth to change her name on the documents or her “application would be rejected”. “When Tanvi refused to do the same, Mishra started shouting at her in front of everyone,” said Siddiqui. “When Tanvi broke down, Mishra asked her to go and meet the assistant passport officer.”

Siddiqui also alleged that Mishra humiliated him and asked him to convert to Hinduism or his “marriage won’t be accepted”. “Mishra told me that I would have to marry as per Hindu rituals and take ‘pheras’ and sent my file to the [assistant passport officer].”

Mishra told ANI that he had asked Seth to get the name Shadia Anas endorsed as it was mentioned on her nikahnama (marriage contract), but she refused to do so. “We have to do thorough checks to ensure no person is changing their name to obtain a passport.”

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