Student claims Mumbai airport officer denied him immigration for not knowing Hindi

Updated: Jan 12, 2019, 10:12 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Mumbai Police order a probe into the allegations by the Ph.D. student that an immigration officer denied him clearance because he was unable to speak in Hindi

Student claims Mumbai airport officer denied him immigration for not knowing Hindi
Abraham Samuel

A 27-year-old PhD student was allegedly denied clearance by an airport immigration officer because of his failure to speak in Hindi at the Mumbai International Airport. After the incident, the miffed student who was flying to the US started a Twitter debate by tagging PM Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi.

Mumbai Police’s Special Branch ordered a probe into the allegations after the student took to social media to spark a debate. The PhD student accused the immigration officer of denying him clearance on Tuesday night because he was unable to speak in Hindi and also asked him to go back to Tamil Nadu.

After the incident, Abraham Samuel, (27) a biomedical engineer completing his Doctorate in Chemistry at Clarkson University in Potsdam, U.S., tweeted the incident by tagging not just Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, but also opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi, DMK’s MK Stalin and Shashi Tharoor.

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His post read, “Was just denied immigration by an immigration officer at counter 33 Mumbai Airport, for knowing only Tamil and English and NOT Hindi! What a disaster! Reported the officer, hope they take action.” This tweet took the internet by storm and was retweeted 1,512 times and got 1,892 likes. “This is one reason why no central parties are going to set foot in Tamil Nadu! The immigration officer not only did not speak to me in English but suggested that I find a Tamil immigration counter!” his next tweet said, tagging Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

“I’m proud to be an Indian and even more proud to be a Tamil! If that’s a problem with you, then you are not fit to call yourselves Indians!” “I’m Indian, I DON'T SPEAK HINDI! DEAL WITH IT! @HMOIndia Don’t abuse Indians who speak their own beautiful languages!” he expressed his frustration in a series of tweets.

According to Mirror, while flying from Paris to Boston on board an Air France flight, Samuel narrated the incident that happened when he flew into Mumbai from Chennai on Tuesday night. Around 12.30 and 1 am, he was clearing immigration at counter no 33 in the departure. “The same officer let a foreign national (lady) go after questioning. But when he saw me, he expected me to converse in Hindi, and when I said, ‘Sir, sorry, I don’t understand Hindi’, he threw a tantrum and asked me to find another counter,” Samuel told Mirror on Wednesday evening.

“He repeatedly asked me to go to Tamil Nadu. After complaining about this officer to the immigration office, when they produced this officer before me, he didn’t change his behaviour. He again said that I should know Hindi being in India or go to Tamil Nadu, even in front of his supervisors,” he said, adding that he had to go to the next counter and the officer there cleared his immigration.

Samuel informed he had no time to lodge a formal complaint as he was in a hurry but the CCTV footage would capture the entire incident. His tweets stirred reactions on twitter profusely.

The reactions that surfaced accused him of having an anti-BJP agenda and some thought he was trying to spark the Hindi vs Tamil debate, replying to which he tweeted, “Yes, some people on Twitter are accusing me of having an agenda. I’m just another Indian, and I raise my voice when needed. My true frustration is (that) everywhere else, except in India, respect me and my language. In my home country, people like them deny basic rights on the basis of languages,” he said, adding that he hoped the central government would educate its officers.

He also stated that he was emailing a formal complaint to the Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and would demand an apology from the officer concerned. CID Supriya Patil-Yadav, Additional Commissioner of Police Special Branch II,  said, “We are conducting a probe to find out if the allegations are correct and the circumstances that could have led to the altercation. If it’s correct, I must say it’s very unfortunate and that such unprofessional, insensitive conduct was exhibited by the immigration officer. By Thursday, our probe will reach its conclusion.” Patil-Yadav said that if the officer is found guilty, he will be sent for re-skilling, retraining and re-sensitisation. 

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