In a development that is widely being viewed as a vindication of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s stand, the Regional Passport Office in Lucknow has cleared the passports issued to an interfaith couple, Anas Siddiqui and Tanvi Seth.
Regional Passport Officer (RPO) Piyush Verma told news agency PTI that the passports of Tanvi Seth and Anas Siddiqui had been cleared. Verma also added that there was no adverse report from the police which conducted a verification of the couple under the Ministry of External Affairs guidelines.
Verma clarified that the new MEA rules which came into force in June, the police report was required only on six points related to criminal antecedents and citizenship. In an attempt to ease the police verification process, the MEA had in June brought down the number of questions from nine to six, restricting the focus on any criminal antecedents.
The couple had kicked up a political storm after alleging that a passport officer, identified as Vikas Mishra, had harassed them by questioning their interfaith marriage. Taking a dim view of the complaint, the MEA had immediately ordered the transfer of Mishra while issuing passports to Siddiqui and Seth.
Meanwhile, quoting sources in Delhi, PTI reported that an internal government probe had found that Mishra and the Lucknow Police had exceeded their brief by asking “irrelevant” questions. An internal government probe has reportedly found that the Lucknow passport officer was wrong in asking the couple questions about their religion when they visited his office with their applications. They said the official had exceeded his brief.
They added that the Uttar Pradesh Police was also wrong in probing about the place of the couple’s residence during the verification process, added the PTI report.
The couple last month had sensationally alleged that Mishra asked Siddiqui to convert to Hinduism and pulled up Seth for marrying a Muslim when they went to there to file their passport applications.
Swaraj had faced nasty trolling from her own BJP supporters with some of them even issuing death threats to her. Many trolls, who gave her grief on social media are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the members of his cabinet.
Swaraj had launched a Twitter poll asking her followers if they approved of the abusive tweets that targeted her. 57% of them had answered in ‘No,’ while 43% respondents said they agreed with those who abused the minister and issued death threats.
More than 1.24 lakh people took part in the poll with 57% expressing their disgust on the tweets that sought to give grief to Swaraj. Worryingly, 43% respondents (over 50,000 people) approved of the abusive tweets with calls for assassination of the minister.
Swaraj had then taken to Twitter to reinforce her point that there was no place for abuse and intimidation in a civilised society. She wrote, “In a democracy difference of opinion is but natural. Pls do criticise but not in foul language. Criticism in decent language is always more effective.”
The trolls, as many as 30,000, had then taken to Facebook to post negative reviews on Swaraj’s page in a bid to bring its rating down. A frustrated foreign minister had then disabled the ‘Reviews’ option on her Facebook page.
Both Swaraj and her husband Swaraj Kaushal, who too faced trolling from BJP supporters, fought a lonely battle as no one from the BJP came to their rescue until Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh reportedly extended his support to his cabinet colleague earlier this week. Swaraj had then shut up a known Hindutva troll after she dared her to block her on Twitter.
The local police had sent its report to the RPO office on June 26, saying Tanvi Seth had been living in Noida, and not Lucknow as mentioned in her application, for the past one year.