Source: The Times of India
I P Singh, TNN | Sep 3, 2014, 03.12AM IST
NAWANSHAHR (PUNJAB): Seven Hindu and Sikh Afghan refugees staying in India on long-term visas for nearly 20 years have been arrested by the Punjab police over the past two months for procuring Indian passports on fake credentials. They were arrested from different airports in the country just before they were to catch flights to various European destinations.
Police investigation have so far traced 135 such passports issued to Afghan Hindus and Sikhs from the regional passport office (RPO) in Jalandhar and issued lookout notices for all of them. Police officials told TOI that 12 such Afghan citizens might already have left the country.
Five accused — including a police head constable, now under suspension — who had helped the Afghans get the passports have told the police they were not aware that the applicants were from Afghanistan. Police are looking for a Delhi-based travel agent, P K Jain, and an Afghan man, Manmeet Singh, who were instrumental in getting the Afghan residents in touch with Jalandhar-based middlemen. The middlemen arranged the forged residential proofs and other documents.
The arrested Afghan citizens also disclosed during questioning that after reaching Europe, they were planning to use their Afghan citizenship to seek political asylum. They were to claim they had somehow escaped from the Taliban’s clutches.
On July 4 four members of a Hindu family were arrested from the Bangalore airport when they were about to fly to France. The head of the family, Tek Chand — whose wife, son and daughter-in-law were also arrested — said his five brothers were already settled in France and neighbouring countries, and he wanted to join them.
Three other Afghan residents, including a young woman Mandeep Kaur, were Sikhs and were held from Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai airports.
“We could not apply for visa at Indian embassies on Afghan documents, so we resorted to faking documents,” an arrested Afghan citizen told investigators.
Nawanshahr DSP Sarabjit Singh, who is investigating the case, said all the applicants used forged documents to show themselves as citizens of Nawanshahr. None of them used his or her original name. “Three of the accused completed their education in Delhi and none could suspect they were not Indian citizens,” he said.
The cops are looking for those Afghans whose police verification reports were prepared by head constable Tirath Ram, who is charged with being part of a gang of six other accused. The gang is believed to have been active since 2012, until RPO officials smelt a rat in February when 10 passports sent through registered post were returned by the postal department since they could not be delivered.
Police investigations revealed Tirath Ram was taking Rs 20,000 for each police verification report for a passport. Three postmen, who are also believed to have been involved in the fraud, have been arrested. A Delhi-based agent apparently used to charge Rs 1 lakh from each applicant.