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Biologist denied visa : Should media report this?

Bahar Dutt bahardutt

Updated: June 25, 2010, 3:29 PM IST
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This week we did a story on Faiyaz Khudsar. Faiyaz is a wildlife biologist who has been working on reviving the Yamuna Biodiversity Park a flagship project of the Delhi University and has a Phd from the Wildlife Institute of India with fifteen years of experience in the field of wildlife conservation. On the 1st of June he was invited by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC to get trained on tiger conservation. All the other 10 forest officials selected with Faiyaz had their visa cleared. But not Faiyaz. His visa was sent back to him by the American Embassy on June 19th, that's 19 days after he was to leave -with no explanation.

When we did this story- asking why his visa was rejected many viewers wrote in saying - that they too have had their visa rejected many a time and it has nothing to do with religion and we in the media were just 'sensationalising' the issue. Were we?

Faiyaz was selected to go in a group -- he was in fact invited by the American institution , his was the only passport that was held back. Faiyaz for his part for most of his career just thought of himself as a biologist, that's it. But as he told me during the interview felt this was the first time he became aware of his religion. He was hesitant to speak out precisely because of the reactions that have come in. But he still states as he did in his interview he feels embarrassed not as a 'Muslim' but as an individual for being singled out.

Yes its true many of us have had our visas rejected for various issues - but how many have been invited by the host country with a letter from a reputed institution, and then singled out for rejection? Would you in such a case not feel that there may have been some prejudice involved? And its not just Faiyaz. I have friends who have been trying to get a credit card or a bank loan and are just not able to because of their religion.

Can we pretend that these biases don't exist? Of course there are other biases as well which are class or language based- but does that mean we in the media don't report on them?

I cannot for the life of me understand why Faiyaz had his visa rejected. The embassy too is silent on the issue. For all the viewers who wrote in asking if they had their visas rejected will we report it? My answer would be -yes we will- if it's because of a prejudice or bias that a person has been denied a chance- well then yes, I hope we will report on it.
First Published: June 25, 2010, 3:29 PM IST

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