New Delhi, April 13: The Centre today rejected a demand by Sri Aurobindo’s followers to deny a visa extension to US historian Peter Heehs, whose book on the spiritual guru has upset them.
The visa, which was about to expire on April 15, was extended by a year this evening.
The historian, who has lived in India for 40 years, had applied for the visa extension to the Puducherry Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO), which refused to extend the visa, probably under pressure from Sri Aurobindo’s followers. They claim the historian depicted a distorted picture of the freedom fighter and their guru in his biography.
When the matter was reported in the media, Union home minister P. Chidambaram said he had asked for a suo motu review of the case and he would take an appropriate decision. After reviewing the case and going through several representations against Heehs, the home ministry is understood to have decided to intervene in the matter.
Heehs, an inmate of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry, had spent most of his 40 years working on a project of digitisation and archiving of the works of the spiritual guru.
It seems that pleas from Heehs’s friends, such as writer Ramachandra Guha, made the Union home ministry reject the complaints of the followers.
Guha protested against the FRRO move and also petitioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram for reconsideration of the decision.
Former junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor also appealed to the Centre to allow Heehs to continue his stay in India as did minister Jairam Ramesh, who wrote to Chidambaram requesting a review of the case.