Swedish trio fined for visa violation in Assam
Three Swedish nationals were fined $500 (Rs 41,500) each in Assam for violating visa norms before their departure to New Delhi in the afternoon.
The trio had travelled to Naharkatia in Dibrugarh, Upper Assam, on tourist visas to attend a three-day healing and prayer programme organised by the United Churches Fellowship and the Bless Assam Mission Network from Tuesday.
The police had on Wednesday questioned the Swedish trio, including two females, for several hours at the Namrup police station for indulging in missionary activities in “contravention” of visa norms for tourists. The police said “preparation for their deportation” has started.
The trio were asked to appear before the SP’s office in Dibrugarh town, the district headquarters, on Thursday, to pay the fine for violation of visa norms.
Dibrugarh is about 50km from Namrup.
A police officer told The Telegraph they left for the airport after paying the fine of $ 500 each “as per a circular issued under the Foreigners Act for violation of visa norms”. The trio had to altogether cough up around Rs 1.23 lakh in fine, an organiser said.
Asked to specify the violation, the official said: “They were travelling on a tourist visa but were attending a religious event in Naharkatia, something which is against the rule. There was no mention of the religious event in the visa. They left after paying the fine. All proceedings have been closed.”
The official, however, ruled out their “involvement” in any conversion activities.
After paying the fine, the trio proceeded to the Dibrugarh airport to board the 2.45pm Indigo flight to Delhi from where they will fly to Sweden on Friday, one of the organisers said.
Rebutting charges of conversions, one of the organisers reiterated the public event was organised for members of the Christian community for overall peace and to pray for the well-being of the ailing and the depressed.
“Members of other faiths may have attended to pray for the well-being of their family or friends but there was no conversion. This is misinformation. The event was held at a football ground,” he said.
There are about 66 churches of different denominations under Naharkatia Assembly constituency of which the Catholics have the highest number (30) of churches.
The organisers also said they had formally informed the district administration
about the event and also about their three Swedish guests who were invited because they were told by those who knew them that “they were good public speakers and preachers”.
Asked what the trio felt about their brush with the law, one of the organisers said they were very calm. “They said it was God’s wish. Whatever happened was destined to happen, God’s wish,” the organiser said.
About three per cent of the state’s 3.2 crore population is Christians, mostly from tea tribes.