“For privacy reasons, we cannot talk about specific visa cases. However, we emphasise that Indian citizens are not affected by the recent executive order”, the US embassy said.New Delhi: Two sportspersons from Jammu and Kashmir were denied visas to visit the United States, in a development that speaks to the snowballing ramifications of US President Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.
Abid Hussain Khan and Tanvir Hussain, who were set to take part in the world snowshoe championship in New York state were told by the local US consular official here that their visas were rejected due to “current policies”
Hussain, a 24-year-old athlete from Srinagar, along with Khan, general secretary of the Snow Shoe Federation of India, had applied for visa to attend the World Snowshoe Championships at Saranc Lake, New York on February 24-26.Hussain had travelled to Italy for the world championship in 2016 as the Indian representative, where his performance had led to his qualification for the 2017 edition.
Speaking to The Wire, Khan said that they had gone to the US embassy for their scheduled visa interview on Monday. “I had explained to the lady visa officer that Hussain is a famous athlete in our region, so she asked for media reports. She went inside with our press clippings, but on return, she said that the visa had been denied,” he said.
Dejected, Khan asked for a reason. “She told us that visa had been denied due to current policies,” he added.
Hussain told that The Wire that the term used for denial – “current policies” – made it seem that the rebuff was due to the latest visa policy change issued by President Trump. “When I applied for an Italian visa last year, they had said that there was some more documents required and I had then resubmitted my application. So, they could have told me if there was any problem with the documents,” he said.
Similarly, Khan is also convinced that Trump administration’s executive order may have been the reason. “Whoever we have consulted after our visa application was refused have told us that the phrase, ‘due to current policy’, is unusual,” he said.
On its part, the US embassy in New Delhi denied the denial was linked to the new Trump order. “For privacy reasons, we cannot talk about specific visa cases. However, we emphasise that Indian citizens are not affected by the recent executive order”, a US embassy spokesperson said.
Since the duo were invited for the world championship at Saranc lake, Khan had also informed the organisers, including the Mayor Clyde Rubindeau about their unsuccessful visa application.
Rubindea, a democrat Mayor of the New York state village, even posted the private communication with the duo to show his disappointment at the denial of visa.
When contacted, Rubindeau said that he has asked US federal authorities “to look into this matter right away”. “I know of no reason these two athletes who I befriended in Italy at last year’s world championships should be denied visas to the USA,” he asserted.
Asked if the denial was related to new visa policy signed off by President Trump, the Saranc Lake city mayor told The Wire, “I truly hope there is no relationship to the recent presidential order, but it is difficult not to consider it”.
Last week, the US president signed an executive order which suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days and barred citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days. There has, however, been confusion about the interpretation of the order, which had led to even green card holders from those countries being detained at US airports.
There had been widespread protests against the executive order in US cities, but the Trump administration has doubled down on the new rule, denying that it was a de-facto restriction on entry of Muslim travellers.
Though many countries around the world have criticised the latest US restrictions, India has so far kept silent.
Till the time of publication, the Ministry of External Affairs – which routinely protests the denial of Chinese visas to sportspersons from the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh – has not issued a public statement on the US visa denial to the two Kashmiri sportspersons.