Kashmiri medical students denied Bangladesh visa

Nearly 350 Kashmiri students headed for Bangladesh to undergo medical education are stranded in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati and Agartala for nearly a month now , after failing to get student visas, to enter Bangladesh.

But students from other Indian states are getting visas without any problem.

Educational consultancies sending students for medical education to Bangladesh say they are in a soup over the ‘inordinate delay’ in securing visas, because parents who have paid up for the courses are asking for return of the money they had paid.

“Our boys and girls are stuck in hotels in Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati and even Agartala since mid-December. Usually Kashmiri students apply and get visa from the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi but this year, we were told visas will only be given if equivalence certificates were received,” said one educational consultancy manager who sends students for medical education to Bangladesh, China and some other countries.

He spoke on condition of anonymity, and not even willing to allow his organization to be identified because he feared “adverse consequences”.

“But please write because our students are desperate,” the manager told this writer at Hotel Rockstar in Kolkata.

“Bangladesh diplomats are giving visas to students from other states of India, but they are telling us we have some problems with Kashmiri students,” he said.

“Some Kashmiri students, about twenty of them, have already got visas and gone and joined medical colleges in Bangladesh. So we are wondering whether there is something that has happened since mid-December and if they have some instruction from the Indian government not to give visas to Kashmiri students,” a manager of another educational consultancy said.

He said that the Bangladesh Assistant High Commissioner in Guwahati is on long leave, so the Assistant High Commissioner from their Agartala mission Kirity Chakma was in Guwahati in the last two days.

“He cleared the visas for other students but held back on the applications of the 15-odd Kashmiri students who had applied in Guwahati after being told that the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi was not issuing visas. Chakma said it was not possible for him to issue these visas,” the manager said, again strictly insisting on anonymity.

“Our expenses are going up. The boys and girls have been lodged in hotels since mid-December and many guardians are with them. We are all caught up in huge uncertainty,” the manager said.

Bangladesh missions in India usually insist on an “equivalence certificate” for visa applications for study in their country, meaning that the Indian certificates are accepted as “equivalent” to those in Bangladesh.

“But since at least 600 students from Kashmir and thousands from rest of India go to Bangladesh for medical education normally, the missions are aware of the quality of Indian certificates and had stopped insisting on equivalence certificates,” observed the owner of yet another educational consultancy.

The Press Secretary at the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi, Fariq Hossain, told senior Kashmiri journalist Altaf Hussein (formerly of BBC) that there was no policy to deny student visas to Kashmiris.

“He told me the delay in visas could be for some technical issue but he was not very clear,” Hussein told this writer.

A Bangladesh diplomat in Kolkata told this writer that Kashmiri students are supposed to apply for visa at the country’s High Commission in Delhi which takes care of Northern Indian states.

“Our missions have clear territorial jurisdictions and we usually stick to them,” he said. But he was not willing to be identified.

Bangladesh has emerged as a popular destination for medical students from India and elsewhere in South Asia.

Bhutan’s present Prime Minister, a doctor by profession, had graduated from Mymensingh Medical College in 2001 and later completed his post-graduate degree in surgery from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Dhaka.

The website of Smile Consultancy says MBBS degrees from Bangladesh are increasingly attractive for Indians who find it difficult to clear the tough entrance exams in India or are not able to pay high fees to enter private medical colleges in India.

“The quality of medical education in Bangladesh is the same as in India. The same MBBS programs in English are followed in Bangladesh. The text books are the same,” says an entry in the consultancy’s website.

For Kashmiri students who have limited opportunities for medical education in their own state and are increasingly finding it tough to study elsewhere in India, Bangladesh has become ever more attractive.

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