Another set of students, 19 of them, were stopped by Air India from taking a flight from Hyderabad to San Francisco even though they had visas. Air India says these students were stopped so that they could avoid the humiliation of being deported.
What is common between these two groups is that they were heading to the Silicon Valley University at San Jose and North Western Polytechnic College, Fremont, both in California; these universities have been blacklisted by the US, according to Air India.
The 14 who were deported arrived in Delhi today, with the word “revoked” stamped across their passport in red. Many of them are from Hyderabad.
“We were interrogated for 14-15 hours by the FBI. We were all kept in one cell. It was humiliating, we were not allowed to go anywhere and were told that we have to return immediately,” said Deepak, 23, whose father has a transport business.
“It was hard to raise 2-3 lakhs for a US university. Now I have been shamed publicly. How will the blemish go from my passport?” he asked.
Deepak chose the Silicon Valley University because he saw on the website that thousands studied there.
“I gave up my job to study in the US. My dreams, my parents’ hard-earned money, one whole year are all gone,” said 22-year-old Bharat, the son of a farmer in Hyderabad.
Air India officials say it is after the traumatic experience of these students that it stopped more such students from flying to San Francisco and told its travel agents not to give them tickets.
The airline says it is following the advice of the US Customs and Border Protection and Immigration. It is not clear why such a notice has not come from the Indian foreign ministry.
In a notice to its travel agents, Air India said that those travelling on a student visa and heading to these two California universities were not to be sold tickets. “Please inform all your staff and care to be taken while issuing the tickets,” the airline said.
“In the past, we have witnessed that students who secured admission in those institutions have been deported to India as soon as they land there. To avoid embarrassment to them and save their money, we prevented them from boarding the flight,” an official added.
One of the universities has said on its website that reports that it has been blacklisted by the US government are “absolutely false”.