Assam editor dropped from PM trip, accuses MEA of communal bias

September 22nd, 2008 - 2:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Sep 22 (IANS) The editor of an Assamese newspaper who was dropped from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to the US and France because he couldn’t get a US visa blames the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and says the treatment meted out to him forced him to think he was a minority. Haider Hussain, editor of Assam’s highest circulated Asomiya Pratidin, was dropped from the team of journalists scheduled to accompany the prime minister Monday with the US embassy allegedly denying him a visa.

“I am a victim of being a Muslim and blame the ministry of external affairs for the goof-up rather than holding the US embassy in New Delhi responsible,” Hussain told IANS.

Hussain was the lone media representative from the northeast to have been formally invited by the MEA to be part of 35 journalists accompanying the prime minister on the 10-day visit.

“I reached New Delhi as advised and visited the US embassy for my visa. I was shocked to find the inordinate delay in processing my visa application at a time when other colleagues took just 30 minutes or so for doing their formalities,” Hussain said.

“Although no official reason was cited to me for non clearance of the visa, I was told by an MEA official that US embassy takes time to issue visas to Muslim applicants.”

Accusing the Indian government for failing to get his visa cleared despite being formally invited to be part of the prime minister’s entourage, Hussain said he was hurt at the discriminatory attitude meted out to him by MEA officials who failed to take any initiative in helping him get the visa.

“I had sent protest letters to the prime minister and the MEA saying I was deeply hurt at the treatment meted out to me and said I was forced to think that I am a minority. Never ever did I think for a moment that I am a Muslim and a minority, but this incident has forced me to change my perception,” a dejected Hussain said after he flew back to Guwahati Sunday.

Hussain was also a member of the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), a civil society group chosen by the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to broker peace between the outfit and New Delhi.

The PCG, of which Hussain was a part, met the prime minister for exploratory peace talks in New Delhi in 2005.

Hussain had earlier travelled abroad with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s media entourage.

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