A huge outrage broke out recently, when a passport office personnel apparently harassed an inter-faith couple. As per the officer he had followed the regulations and there was no wrongdoing on his part. But, these days we like to blow matters out of proportion. No due diligence seems necessary when announcing someone guilty. Especially, if it suits a particular agenda. Why care for truth, when half-baked information can work just fine?

The Allegations

An inter-faith couple from Noida visited the local passport office to get one new passport and renew another. Tanvi Seth soon after alleged that the passport officer asked her to change her name and religion. As per her claim the passport officer told her that the passport cannot be made as she had married a Muslim and did not change her name.

She felt that she was facing a case of moral policing. Following the incident, she tweeted her side of the story in heartfelt Tweets to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. In the series of tweets, she also claimed that her husband Anas Sidiqui was asked to convert to Hinduism. Taking cognizance of the matter, Sushma Swaraj currently in Brussels sought information on the incident from the Lucknow Passport office.

The problem was resolved and the couple got their passports within 24 hours. Regional passport officer stated that a show cause notice was issued to the officer and he was transferred with immediate effect.  He also added that a report was also sent to EAM for further action.

The Officer’s Clarification

A certain section of media wasted no time in blaming the officer. Adding fuel to the fire, some politicians even blamed the BJP for creating such an atmosphere in the country. However, the officer’s account of the incident is equally important. It appears the officer Vikas Mishra was only doing his duty when he objected to certain documents.

Firstly, there is no relation between religion and passport. Secondly, a Nikahnaama is not mandatory to get a passport. The problem surfaced when the officer noticed discrepancies in the name mentioned on the Nikaahnaama. The named mentioned was Shadia Anas, while she wanted the passport in her maiden name.

The officer asked for additional proof to verify the name. It is the duty of the officer to acknowledge the documents presented to him which in this case also included Nikaahnaama with a different name than other documents. The officer requested the concerned person to endorse the other name on the passport which they refused.

The said officer also reported the matter to the superiors and made note of alleged threats by the couple. He also denied making any comments on the religion of the couple. Anyone obtaining a passport by changing name could be the question of national security. So why is this aspect not in coming to light?

Discrimination or Routine Procedure?

While the couple claimed discrimination, the officer stated that he was merely doing his duty. It is no hidden fact that all documents should be in place to get a passport. Discrepancies in personal details are serious from a security stand point. Thus, many among us have gone through delays while getting a passport. Frankly, this case seems like a simple case of requirement of the additional documents, but then lost context.

The story on both accounts is completely different and rather than waiting for the truth, a section of media and politicians have already started working on their agenda. Interestingly, the officer has received a lot of support on social media with many users sharing their own ordeal of a name change. So was this due to religion or was a simple government procedure? We would like to wait until an official report is out before blaming anyone. Also, how quickly can one get a passport under Tatkal?

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