'All Safe & Normal in Canada, but...' Indian Students Face Uncertainty Amid Row

2 months ago 106

Pallavi Dutta (name changed), a post-graduate psychology student who has been living in Toronto since September 2022, is awaiting the return of her passport from the Canadian authorities with an extension of her visa.

Dutta is planning to pursue another degree, she adds, explaining the need for the extension.

"It's been a few days since I've sent my passport... I was supposed to receive it on Friday [22 September], but nothing so far. There has been a delay, so I am concerned... maybe there is nothing to worry about and I'm overthinking, but still..."

"If Canada does take some action, students will be the worst affected. I've come here after many difficulties. What if they ask me to go back? Then what? I have no plan B," says Supriya Vaid (name changed to protect identity), a 20-something student from Punjab's Jalandhar who is pursuing her post-graduation in Saskatchewan in western Canada. 

As the diplomatic row between India and Canada escalates, Indian students in the country are living in fear and uncertainty.

Their main worry is: what if Canada takes an adverse step in response to India suspending visas to Canadians?

"Indian Canadians who have 10-year visas also fear that they might be cancelled for the time being," says Kaushik Sachdev (name changed).

"A similar situation had occurred during the pandemic [when travel was suspended], but then those visas were reinstated. But now, we just don't know," adds Sachdev.

The rift in India-Canada relations last week rapidly worsened after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on 18 September, said the country was investigating "credible allegations" about the potential involvement of Indian government agents in the murder of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June this year.

It's Not Just Students

Even as students are feeling anxious, the ground reality remains unchanged, say Indians living in Canada.

"Today, a middle-aged man came up to my daughter and her friends at their university and asked if they were Indian. When they replied in the affirmative, he reassured them and said there was nothing to worry and that they were more than welcome in Canada," said Geeta Sharma, who shifted base from Noida to Edmonton a month ago. Sharma is accompanied by her daughter who has taken admission at a college in the city.

She adds, "I met my Indian and my Canadian friends – of course, everyone is aware of what has happened – but nobody is making a big deal out of it," she tells The Quint.

Ananya (surname withheld), who is pursuing her Masters' degree in journalism in Vancouver, echoes Sharma's views.  

"I've been around the city and on campus for quite a bit, but I never felt unsafe or targeted. Indian students around me have been discussing this since the two countries got into the unprecedented diplomatic situation. There is some concern, but no one I know has been affected or targeted."

Ananya, Student

Even though things have been normal for Indians living in Canada, India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) did issue an advisory, urging them to "exercise utmost caution."  

Ananya did receive the circular put out by the MEA on an Indian WhatsApp group of students in Vancouver, but that's all.

"So far, there has been no communication from the universities," she adds.

The Quint reached out to the University of Toronto, and its media relations officer said, "There is no problem for Indians wanting to travel to Canada. We don't have any problems in taking admissions at our university either. In fact, even in the present scenario, our Indian students can still travel back to their country if they want." 

Meanwhile, the MEA has urged students to register on the MADAD app or portal to "facilitate communication between the consulates and Indian citizens staying in Canada."

Just a Word of Caution From Families Back Home – 'Be Careful!'

When the diplomatic situation escalates, it's natural for families back home to be worried. Supriya, for instance, has been receiving calls from her home and other parents who want her to look out for their children in case of an emergency. 

"My parents are very worried. The number of calls from home has increased, but now it's not just my family. But others have also reached out to me and shared their children's numbers. And have asked me to look out for them, just in case..."


Sharma's family, who lives in Noida, says, "I have been getting messages ever since this escalation happened from everyone in the family, asking me to be careful and asking my daughter to be careful, too."  

Pallavi has four months off and was planning to travel back home to India. But now, she isn't sure if she should. "My friends and family are worried about me and asking me to reconsider my travel decision," she says.  

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Entire Article