• Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Woman declared stateless in India, UK and Uganda, moves court

Ila Popat was born in Uganda in 1955 and came to India as a 10-year-old on her mother’s passport.

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

A 66-year-old woman living in Mumbai has been declared stateless in India, UK and Uganda. Ila Popat has been living in India for 55 years and has driving licence, voter identity card and Aadhar card.

Last month, Popat approached Bombay High Court to issue a passport so that she can travel abroad. She was born in Uganda in 1955 and came to India as a 10-year-old on her mother’s passport, reports said.

She got married 10 years later, and now has two children and several grandchildren, all of them Indian citizens.Though she applied thrice for an Indian passport in the past each time the request was rejected citing lack of documents.

“My husband is Indian, my children and grandchildren are Indian. I have every other government document including an Aadhaar (a unique ID issued to all Indian residents), and yet none of it seemed to be enough,” she told the BBC.

According to reports, she already missed the weddings of two of her nephews in UK, and will miss another nephew’s wedding in Dubai which is weeks before the court date later this month.

In her latest petition, she said that only in 2018-19 she was told by officials to apply for Indian citizenship first before seeking an Indian passport.

Her father was born and raised in Porbandar, Gujarat. In 1952, he left to work in Uganda and a few years later acquired a British passport. Popat was born in Kamuli town in Uganda, seven years before the country’s independence from British rule.

In 1966, she left for India with her mother and her younger brother. Her mother’s passport stated she was a British Protected Person. In India, her family first lived in Porbandar but moved to Mumbai in 1972.

In 1997, Popat applied for citizenship, but the application was rejected. She then approached the British High Commission in Mumbai. But it said she was not eligible to apply for a British passport since neither her father nor her paternal grandfather were “born, registered or naturalised” in the country or its colonies after 1962.

It also said Popat was likely to be a Ugandan citizen. In 2018, her daughter wrote to the Ugandan High Commission in Delhi for citizenship or passport on the basis of which Popat could apply for an Indian one. The consulate confirmed that she was born in the country but said she had “never been a Ugandan”.

“I would ask if I could at least get a travel passport to visit my grandfather in the UK, but I couldn’t get one,” she was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Her Vadodara-based younger brother holds a British passport like their parents.

In 2019, Indian authorities told Popat that said she had been living in the country without a proper visa or passport and, hence, did not fulfill the conditions under the 1955 Citizenship Act.

This urged her move to the High Court as the last resort.

The Union government’s counsel, Advait Sethna, told the court Popat could be granted citizenship only if she submitted her birth certificate or any other requisite document proving her origins and how she came to India.

The counsel also suggested her to approach the embassy in Uganda and get the requisite documents.

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