The denial of a visa by the Canadian High Commission to Indian dignitary Ashoke Chatterjee is making waves in India. On Sunday October 25 India's paper DNA ran a quarter page article on the situation. In addition we have received a number of letters expressing support for both the symposium and the artisans and outrage at the denial. The Jawaja presentation will still take place via a special video conference set-up.
Here is a link to the paper (archives require a membership) and the full text of the article:
Denied visa, artisans miss global meet
Canadian high commission refuses permission to AAJ members citing lack of legitimate business purpose
The achievements of artisans from a hamlet Jawaja in Ajmer district of Rajasthan went in vain when their team accompanied by former director national Institute of Design, Ashoke Chatterjee was denied visas to attend global Maiwa symposiusm being organised in Vancouver by the Maiwa foundation.
The symposium, opened on October 19, provides a platform for craft development and allows craft artisans to display their talent.
According to Chatterjee, the Canadian authorities in Delhi stated that visas were denied due to lack of "legitimate business purpose".
The group belonging to Artisan Alliance of Jawaja (AAJ) had been invited to share three decades of development experience through an experiment that is globally acknowledged for its significance and has had an influence well beyond craft sector.
The artisans, who were scheduled to attend the symposium, are disappointed as they lost a golden opportunity to show their talent globally.
"We have worked for 30 years to develop and hone this art but a lifetime opportunity is lost for not-so-strong a point. We fulfiled all formalities for issuing of visa but the authorities denied it," said Sukhdev Bhatt, a leather craftsman with Artisan Alliance of Jawaja.
One representative each from the leather group and the weaver group of the alliance were to attend the symposium.
Now, with the help of some groups in Canada, the artisans have been allowed to participate in the symposium through a video conferencing to be held on October 28 at IIMA's Ravi J Matthai Centre in Ahmedabad. Nearly six members of both leather and weaver groups of the alliance are planning to participate in the video conferencing and recover some loss of opportunity.
The AAJ has been recognised as a remarkable development effort over last three decades and its artisans are known for linking traditional craft skills with contemporary opportunities and demonstrating ability of the poorest to work for change.
Chatterjee rued that visa rejection is symbolic of both neglect of crafts at high level of decision making worldwide and enormous gap between the rhetoric of donor nations and what they can actually deliver on the ground level.