Last week, the Canadian goverment refused to grant a visa to a retired high-ranking official of the Indian Army, citing the "poor human rights record" of the Indian Armed Forces as the reason. In addition to taking it up with the Ministry of External Affairs, the retired official went public with the rejection. One news channel carried the story, and before you knew it a pandora's box had been opened. Within the space of a few days, dozens of such cases came to light- the Canadian government had apparently been refusing visas to people who served in the Armed Forces, any Intellegence Agency or the Police for several years.
As a sovereign country, Canada does have the right to refuse to grant visas to anyone, but it was the reasons being cited for doing so that had people fuming. One man who had served in the Punjab Police during the height of terrorism had been told that he was not being granted a visa because he had actively or tacitly approved of the harsh measures being taken by the Police to stamp out Terrorism in the state. Indians old enough to remember those days could not help but be struck by the irony of the statement - most of the masterminds of the Terrorism in Punjab had acquired Canadian passports and were funding the entire operations from the country.
As always, in controversies of this kind, the public was quick to suggest solutions- deny visas to all Canadians wanting to visit India, take it up very strongly in the United Nations, cut all economic ties with Canada, etc, etc. Personally, I thought that what the Indian Government did was the only sensible thing - they had taken the issue up with the Canadian Government, and provided evidence to prove that men in Indian uniforms had a much better record in maintaining human rights than those of most other countries fighting the kind of insurgency and terrorism that the nation was actually facing. But as far as the public was concerned, none of it was enough- they wanted action, and they wanted it now.
But in all the hullaboo, I couldn't help thinking why and how Canada and Canadians had become The Enemy. In blogland, I know and like several Canadians - Jan Morrison, Elspeth and Ann spring to mind. I have two other Canadians who are good virtual friends. I have another real friend who is now a Canadian. If I do not agree with any of them, I can talk to them and sort it out. Why then can nations not do the same thing?
If a person is unaware of the real facts, and is taking major decisions based on the misconception, does it make more sense to educate him, or to fight him? What if the person is actually a nation? Doesn't the same logic continue to apply?
Why is it so difficult to talk, and to listen?
And for something a little more fun. Ann Elle Altman of All Write for Coffee passed on the Sugar Doll Award to me a very long time back. Even though I love receiving awards, I am very, very lax when it comes to passing them on. So lax, in fact, that Ann has even stopped blogging since then :-(
But pass on this Award I will, because there are a whole bunch of Sugar Dolls who I want to acknowledge-
Chary, the wonderful teacher, mother, person and writer from New York
Lisa, who just can't stop blogging about a difficult period in her life
Mari, for being herself- though she may say Slug suits her more than Sugar Doll
Tara, the Princess of Procrastination who will always have you in splits
Trudy, for being awesome despite having such a tiny kid at home
Clarissa, because what goes around comes around
They are not the only Sugar Dolls in my life, but I tried to stick to people who don't seem to have got the Award, and who I haven't passed anything onto yet.