Couple Shamed for Interfaith Marriage by Lucknow Passport Officer
A married couple applying for their passports in Lucknow were shamed for being interfaith by a Passport Seva Kendra officer yesterday, reports The Indian Express.
The couple, who were married in 2007 and have a six-year-old daughter, were told by the officer that the man should convert to Hinduism and the woman should change her name, presumably to her husband’s Islamic last name. This is conflicting advice, but then again, bigots are not known for their logical abilities.
Tanvi Seth and Mohammad Anas Siddiqui live and work in Noida, and had arrived in Seth’s hometown of Lucknow on June 10. They filed for passports on June 19, and went for their Wednesday appointments at the Passport Seva Kendra.
According to Anas, the couple cleared the first two stages and moved to counter C, the last stage. Seth was called up to the counter first, where an officer named Vikram Mishra looked over her documents. “When he saw my name under the spouse category on the documents, he asked Tanvi to change her name or her application would be rejected,” Anas told The Indian Express. “When Tanvi refused to do the same, Mishra started shouting at her in front of everyone.”
After his wife broke down, Mishra allegedly told her to meet with the Assistant Passport Officer, and Anas was called up to the counter. “Mishra then called me and started humiliating me. He asked me to convert to Hinduism else my marriage won’t be accepted,” said Anas. “Mishra told me that I would have to marry as per Hindu rituals and take ‘pheras’ and send my file to the APO as well.”
When the couple complained to the APO, the officer admitted that this was not an isolated incident on Mishra’s part. “He told us Mishra often misbehaved with people like this and asked us to come tomorrow, assuring us that he would try to solve the problem,” said Anas.
The couple went home and tweeted about the incident to Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister. The Regional Passport Officer for Lucknow, Piyush Verma, saw the tweets, and gave The Indian Express what can at best be described as a lukewarm response. “The couple’s applications have not been rejected, they are still under consideration. I will go through the documents and look into the allegation made by the couple.”
He does not go on to refute Mishra’s false premise that the couple’s documents could have been rejected in the first place; it is not illegal to be married to a person of a different faith, nor is it against the law to have a separate surname to your husband. And neither he nor the Lucknow APO have yet enlightened the public as to why an officer who apparently has several incidents of ‘misbehavior’ (read: bigotry) under his belt continues to be employed by the Passport Seva Kendra.