Exiled Bangladeshi poet Daud Haider had to cancel his scheduled India trip this month after the Indian Embassy in Berlin told him that it would not be possible to give him a visa. The embassy told Haider, who holds a special UN visa as a “stateless person” and has travelled to India several times in the past, that he would need clearance by Ministry of Home Affairs as he does not hold a regular visa.
Haider, who was to travel to India for several literary events, was to scheduled to start his month-long trip to the country on January 4. He was also scheduled to visit Kolkata for the launch of his book at Kolkata Book Fair.
“I had applied in December. I called up on Thursday to enquire about the status. I was told that there is no way I could get a visa. Naturally, there is no official communication,” Haider told The Indian Express.
In reply to a query on the status of Haider’s visa, Rajiv Bajpai, Attache (Cons) Embassy of India, said: “Mr Haider may apply for visa. However, visa would be issued on receipt of MHA clearance as Mr Haider is not holding a Regular passport and intends to visit to attend literary events.”
Haider was exiled from Bangladesh after his poem criticising radicalism and bigotry in the country was published in a Bangla daily in 1974.
Haider has lived and worked in India in the past. In 2006, he was issued a multiple entry visa to India on the same passport.
The last India immigration stamp on his visa is dated February 4, 2014.
Haider moved to Berlin in 1987 with the special passport with assistance from then German foreign minister, Hans Dieter Genscher and Nobel Laureate Gunter Grass.
There he flourished as a journalist, writer and a poet. He worked for 25 years in the Bengali department of Deutsche Weele, the German radio. He has been invited to deliver lectures at reputed institutions worldwide and his poetry is taught at two universities in the US and six universities in India.
“I have lived in India after leaving Bangladesh, I have worked there in several newspaper offices, I have also paid taxes to the government of India. This special UN passport is a valid travel document — I could have taken a German passport but I wanted the word Bangladesh to remain on my identification document. Now it says stateless (Bangladesh). When people ask me here why I have not taken German citizenship I say I am a Bangal (person from Bangladesh), an Auslander (outsider). I will remain that,” Haider said from Berlin.
In a way, life has come a full circle for Haider — it was his application for an Indian passport that triggered the chain reaction leading to his being granted the special visa.
Haider had sought Indian citizenship in 1987, it was not only refused to him but he was also asked to leave the country. In his own words, in a 2016 article in The Indian Express,
“There were debates in Parliament. Parliamentarian Indrajit Gupta raised questions. Minister of state, home affairs, Ram Dulari Sinha gave an assurance, “Daud Haider will be allowed to stay back in India.” There wasn’t much certainty in that promise. In the meantime, UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) became involved. The incident created a stir across the world. Günter Grass became a part of it. Not just him, Susan Sontag led a petition by 2,000 American writers and wrote to the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi demanding security for Daud Haider.”