US war veteran denied asylum in India

New Delhi, July 13 (Calcutta Tube) The efforts of an American Vietnam war veteran-turned-Gandhian Jeff Knaebel seeking political asylum in India suffered a blow after the central government told the Supreme Court that it could not accede to his request.

Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati Monday told an apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Anil R. Dave that Knaebel, 72, was not entitled to political asylum in India.

However, Knaebel was left with a ray of hope when Vahanvati told the court that he could make a ‘proper application for citizenship’ of India and this would be decided by the government in accordance with the law.

The court granted Knaebel two weeks time to apply for the citizenship.

The court said that if such an application was made, it should be decided by the central governmnt as expeditiously as possible.

The court said that till the application for citizenship was decided and communicated to Knaebel, he would stay in Himachal Pradesh where he is currently staying, and adhere to the Indian laws.

Known as Sojourner Free to friends, Knaebel is associated with the Gandhi Ashram at Shimla. He claims that he is disillusioned with the American way of life and the militaristic policies of the US.

The US war veteran tore his American passport and birth certificate at Rajghat June 19, 2009 and thereafter became stateless. Living in Shimla since 1995, Knaebel fears American reprisal after his action of tearing the passport and speaking out his mind on American policies.

In his plea for political asylum, Knaebel told the court May 15, 2010 that the US policies were based on military machines and destruction ‘which would one day consume this beautiful planet’.

He described himself as a believer and practitioner of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence.

Knaebel, who gifted all his assets in the US before coming to India, made a representation to the Prime Minister’s Office seeking asylum.

He later moved the apex court for directions to the Indian government to grant him asylum.

Knaebel, who served in the US Navy as a commander, said that the US was a monument of all that stands for materialism and he wanted to continue with his mission of bringing a smile on every face.

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