The Indian-born American journalist and documentary maker has been flown back to the United States after landing at New Delhi airport last week, his family said.
Angad Singh, who makes documentaries for Vice News, was visiting relatives, including his mother and grandparents, in the northern Indian state of Punjab when he was denied entry at the airport by Indian immigration authorities, his mother told VOA.
Angad arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport from the United States at 20:30 on Wednesday. He informed his mother Gurmeet Kaur in Punjab about this in a text message.
“We were looking forward to meeting him in Punjab. Fifteen minutes after sending the first message, my son texted me again that immigration officers had taken away his passport,” Kaur, a US citizen who is now on a family visit to India, told VOA. “Three hours later he was forced to board a flight bound for New York and be deported to the US.”
Singh, a US citizen and a practicing Sikh, has visited India many times in the past and made documentaries on topics such as the country’s farmers’ protests, the COVID-19 pandemic, Kashmiri Muslim protests and the “love jihad” movement of the right. Hindu belief that Muslim men lure Hindu women into marriage to convert them to Islam and spread the religion.
Singh was last in India two or three years ago and filmed a documentary about the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest, Kaur said. In 2019 and 2020, in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area, mostly Muslim women blocked a main road to protest a new Indian citizenship law that welcomes immigrants of all religions from neighboring countries except Muslims.
Later, during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singh directed the documentary Covid Hell Inside India, for which he received an Emmy Award nomination.
Although this time Singh was on a personal visit to India, according to Kaur, the Indian authorities suspected that he would be doing some kind of professional work while in the country.
“He has so many relatives in India. He was definitely on a personal trip. But I think the Indian authorities thought that this time he would be doing some kind of journalistic work … There should be no other reasons for refusing entry, ”Kaur told Voice of America.
Indian authorities barred Singh from entering India years ago when he planned to make a documentary about the Dalits, who were once known as “untouchables” and remain at the bottom of India’s Hindu caste system. He was denied a visa to report on this matter.
“[A] his application for a visa to work on the Dalit issue was rejected long ago. This time his trip was purely personal and had nothing to do with any documentary,” Kaur told VOA.
Kaur wrote on Facebook that her son was deported because of his journalistic work, in which he often criticized the government led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party of Narendra Modi.
“They gave no reason [describing why he was deported]. But we know they are intimidated by his award-winning journalism,” Kaur wrote.
“It’s not easy being a Sikh, a Gursi [a term used usually to describe a practicing Sikh] From above, a journalist, a fighter for truth and justice. … Talking [the] truth has a price. We have to pay.”
According to Kaur, people should raise their voice against such deportation.
“We cannot understand why the Indian authorities took revenge on him when he was on a personal visit to his homeland. Why is he being forced to sever ties with his homeland?” Kaur added.
At least two journalistic organizations condemned Singh’s deportation as a government “vendetta and persecution”.
The episode is “seriously disturbing” and is part of “an ongoing trend of government harassment and intimidation of journalists,” said Githartha Pathak, president of the Journalists’ Union of India. The International Federation of Journalists said the decision to bring back Singh “reeks of vendetta and persecution” in a statement posted on Twitter. The rights group said it “strongly condemns” the government’s actions.
Rohit Chopra, an associate professor at Santa Clara University, told VOA that the decision not to allow Singh to enter India “reflects a scheme to deny or revoke visas for scientists, journalists and artists and reveals the deep insecurities that haunt the Hindu nationalist.” leadership” of the Indian state.
“The message is clear: whatever the evidence, however grave injustice you are trying to draw attention to, criticize Mr. Modi or his government at your own risk,” Chopra added.
The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, which oversees immigration, has not made any statement regarding Singh. Phone calls to the ministry went unanswered.