We are thankful to you, the British government and citizens of Britain for the firm support you have provided the Nepali aspiration for freedom and democracy at a time when it is being cut down by the monocracy of King Gyanendra's medieval feudal ambitions.
But that is not why I am writing this letter. I am writing to you from my own experience about the British visa procedures which is reminiscent of the abusive reign of the Nepali king. I was invited to Britain to speak at the first anniversary of Nepali Sandesh, a weekly published there. It had sent a letter of invitation guaranteeing that my travel, lodging and living expenses in Britain would be taken care of. My visa application was rejected in the most insulting manner. I was given a written note explaining that this was because there was a possibility I may not leave Britain after entering.
Any embassy can reject a visa application. I understand that. But if a diplomatic mission in Nepal insults and demeans a Nepali citizen in his own country it is not acceptable. Later, a Nepali employee of the British Embassy whose name I forget called me up to apologise and say that if I still want to go I could apply again. I said thank you but I am not going to Britain out of someone's mercy. I have a small question for your excellency: after insulting me in writing and filing a copy of the note is it enough to verbally say sorry?
My bitter experience is that there is still the residue of a feudal crown and its arrogant, ugly, conservative and inhuman face at the British Embassy. And this is not directed at anyone in the visa section, they are just the actors. The issue is of policy. What I went through was just an example of the way ordinary Nepali applicants are treated every day.
I was interviewed in Room No. 6 by an officious looking woman who interrogated me in a rude manner asking me irrelevant questions. Where is your previous passport? Why didn't you bring any of your articles printed in Nepali Sandesh? What do you usually write about? Where is the anniversary being held and what are you going to be speaking about?
Excellency, Britain is known as the country that gave the world the concept of democracy. I want to ask you what does such nakedly feudalistic behaviour have to do with such democratic values?
The rejection letter I got says: 'I am neither satisfied with the reasons you gave for entering the United Kingdom nor am I convinced that at the end of your visit to the United Kingdom you will leave the country.' This makes a direct accusation against me and also hints that all Nepalis want to stay on illegally in Britain. You must know that the reality is different. Nepali citizens have spilled their blood for the expansion of the former British Empire. Nepalis who have gone to Britain have contributed with their minds to British intellectualism and with their sweat to the British economy. It is not in the Nepali ethos to lie to go somewhere and hang around there being a burden to the host country. It is when you start to generalise based on sensationalised exceptions that democracy disappears and a Hitlerite culture emerges.
Excellency, suppose the Nepali embassy in Britain rejected in writing the application of a British citizen and gave him a slip saying: 'Since we suspect you are going to be a smuggler when you go to Nepal, your visa application has been rejected'. Imagine the uproar this would set off in Britain.
The British Embassy lacks the basic democratic culture of treating everyone equally. In the three days that it took me to wait, I found it was a long distance between the guards at the gate and the counter where the officials sat. I tried to look for a shortcut but couldn't find any. Meanwhile, people in cars and suits could be seen going in easily. Dressed simply, I got to personally experience the offensive and undignified way ordinary Nepalis are treated at the embassy. The gates were open for anyone at the pinnacle of political power, party power, economic power, religious power or academic power or those who could twist their tongues and speak in British English. And those who couldn't were insulted and cheated.
Not only was my visa refused, but the Rs 7,000 I paid for it was not returned. I thought such cheating was restricted to sleazy third rate manpower agencies preying on the poor. Excellency, I now know better.
In the waiting area outside the visa section there isn't a single bench to sit on. Why is it so difficult to provide at least a place to sit? And why not use a fraction of the money charged for visas to place someone at the gate who can politely answer some basic questions people may have? Is it representative of British culture to torment those who are the weakest? There is a contradiction between your avowed support to Nepali democracy and the feudal and insulting behaviour of your visa section.