New Delhi, November 01 (KMS): The Modi-led Indian government deported a US-based billionaire Punjabi Sikh, Darshan Singh Dhaliwal, and did not allow him to meet his family on the charge of setting up a langar for farmers in Punjab, India.
Days after he was deported from Delhi airport, Darshan Singh Dhaliwal in a media interview said that he had been specifically targeted by immigration officials at Delhi airport ever since he began funding a langar at the farmers’ protest site in Singhu, on January 6, 2021.
Every time Darshan Singh Dhaliwal landed in India, this year, immigration officials at the airport would repeatedly question him why he organised the langar. Darshan Singh Dhaliwal who is an Indian origin and also a US national found his passage to India barred.
Dhaliwal, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, arrived in India on a Chicago-Delhi direct flight at 6.30 pm on October 23-24 to attend his niece’s wedding. But he was denied entry by the immigration authorities who allegedly cited the same Singhu border langar for farmers as the reason. Dhaliwal told media that he was asked to stop organising such langars if he wanted to enter India again.
Dhaliwal along with his wife Debra, who is from the Netherlands, waited at the airport for around five hours only to be sent back to the US on the same flight.
Dhaliwal said, “When I went to the immigration counter, the officials told me to wait. I waited for more than an hour at the airport. I asked them again what was going on but they made me wait more. After two hours, they told me that I will have to go back to the US. When I asked why I was being denied permission to enter India, the immigration officials asked the same questions that they had been asking earlier too – why I organised the langar at Singhu border and who is paying for it. They said if I wanted to enter India, I should stop funding this langar.”
Dhaliwal said that when he asked again, the immigration officials said, “Upparo order hai’ (We have received orders from the top).”
The immigration officials told him that the “orders were on the computer” and that he could not enter India. “During this time, I spoke to my brother Surjit Singh Rakhra, who had come to receive me at the airport, the Indian consul general, the Indian ambassador in Washington, the chief secretary of Punjab and many top officials in the state and Indian government but nothing could be done. They were all shocked to hear the kind of treatment meted out to me. At around 1.30 am on October 24, my wife and I went back to the US on the same plane,” he added.
The Indian born businessman said that ever since he started organising the supply of food for the protesting farmers at Singhu border, he had come to India three times – in January, in April and now in October.
“Whenever I came to India, the immigration officials would ask me why I was supporting the farmers’ protest and who was funding the langar. I took these queries lightly and never shared anything with my family, considering it to be routine questioning by airport staff,” Dhaliwal said.
Dhaliwal added that he remains a steadfast supporter of the protest. “I want to tell everybody that had I been in India now, I would have definitely visited the Singhu border again. I have spent crores on the langar entirely on my own. It is purely my own contribution to the langar sewa and I am glad I am doing it,” he said.
On the fact that he was being targeted over his involvement in the farmers’ protest, Dhaliwal said that he considered himself a far better nationalist than anybody else.
“If this can happen to me, it could happen to anybody. I am a 71-year-old man and I had to undertake a 40-hour back-to-back flight to the US, which was tiring. But let me admit that this will not dampen my spirit and the langar will continue at the Singhu border. I am concerned about feeding people and I will continue to do so,” he added.
Dhaliwal has been funding the langar at the Singhu border in the memory of his father, under the Subedar Kartar Singh Dhaliwal Charitable Trust since January 6.
As the news about his deportation spread, people in Punjab and the Punjabi diaspora abroad rushed to condemn the Modi government’s attitude in denying entry to Darshan Singh Dhaliwal, who is a name to reckon with in the US and back home in Punjab.
The incident invited criticism not just from Dhaliwal’s younger brother and Shiromani Akali Dal Party (SAD) leader Surjit Singh Rakhra, who was a minister in the previous SAD-BJP government but also from former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who also wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in protest.
Rakhra, who represented the Samana assembly segment in Patiala district, told The Wire that not only has Dhaliwal been funding the langar for over 10 months now, but he has also provided 22 waterproof tents for farmers at Singhu border.
“I had gone to the Delhi airport to receive my brother but the way we were harassed was sheer injustice. My brother was repeatedly asked why he was supporting the farmers’ protest against the three farm laws. My niece is getting married on October 31 and Darshan’s arrival was eagerly awaited, as he is the eldest among us all. It is disheartening,” he said.