I don't know what else to do to make the officials understand that I don't and will not have anything to do with WMD proliferation, said Ananth.

My career in jeopardy agonised says IIT scholar denied Oz visa over WMD proliferation
news Discrimination Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 10:44

An aerospace engineer from IIT Kanpur was reportedly denied a visa because he was suspected of being involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The incident came to light when Congress MP Shashi Tharoor wrote to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, urging her to intervene in the case.

Ananth SM, a native of Thiruvananthapuram, had completed his education from IIT Kanpur and was employed there as a Research Associate. He had secured a fully-funded doctoral position at the department of Mechanical Engineering in University of Melbourne, and had therefore applied for an Australian student visa.

However, even after 10 months Ananth had not received his visa, and therefore contacted Tharoor for help in expediting the process. When Tharoor, in turn, contacted the Australian High Commissioner, Ananth received a letter from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (a copy of which is with TNM) that stated that Ananth was suspected, “to be a person whose presence in Australia may be directly or indirectly associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” and this was the reason that his visa application was being rejected.

“I feel devastated and terrible about what is happening to me. I cannot imagine such a suspicion being cast over my application. Those who know me closely – my parents, friends, academicians who are supervising me at IIT Kanpur, the prospective supervisor in Melbourne, etc. are totally shocked. On a personal level, this suspicion is something which doesn't suit with my nature at all,” Ananth told TNM over email.

When he received this letter, said Ananth, he put together a response with letters from professors he had worked with at IIT Kanpur and from his prospective supervisor in Melbourne. However, on July 19, he received a notification that his visa application had been refused.

Ananth added that this decision has not only derailed his immediate career plans (in the form of 10 months wasted on waiting for the Australian visa), but has put his entire academic future in jeopardy. “The reason cited for refusal is good enough to tarnish my name very badly at an international level,” he observed, pointing out that even if he should secure admission in a different university in another country, on any future visa application, he would have to disclose that he was denied an Australian visa and the reasons for it.

“In other words, the stated reason and the refusal by Australia will damage my academic career, which will stop me from pursuing education in any of the reputed universities abroad,” he said.

“Already, myself and my parents are suffering from huge mental agony because of the difficulty in getting a study visa and the situation is getting worse day by day. I do not know what else I must do to prove my innocence and make the relevant officials understand that my true intention is to become an academician after my PhD and that I don't and will not have anything to do with proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he added.

In his letter to Swaraj, Tharoor said that he had written privately to the High Commissioner, asking, “how an Indian scholar could be subject to such a bizarre suspicion, and stated that such a position is unacceptable since it clubs Indian nationals working in certain sectors with those of rogue nuclear states like North Korea and Pakistan.”

He urged Swaraj to intervene in the matter, since, “unlike a typical ‘individual case’, this is one that reflects a matter of fundamental principle where a friendly country, taking no notice of our exemplary record on nuclear non-proliferation, has treated an Indian citizen as they would somebody from a rogue nation.”

Ananth is now pinning his hopes on a successful intervention by the External Affairs Minister. “I am going to be immensely grateful throughout my life for all those who have come to my assistance during this very urgent situation. I am innocent and I believe that my faith will help me to get justice eventually,” he said.

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