Nagaraj Hariharasuthan of Moncton has been unable to fly to India to be with his parents after the death of his brother.
Hariharasuthan, who became a Canadian citizen in June, said his brother Krishnaraj was hospitalized because of a late jaundice diagnosis and died in August at the age of 30. Hariharasuthan wants to be with his grieving parents.
"I am really, you know, struggling to go to my hometown and visit my parents, but I don't have any other option right now unless they open it again."
Hariharasuthan is one of the many people caught in the crossfire as tensions rise between India and Canada over the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader, in June. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said Canada's security agencies believe Indian government agents killed Nijjar at a British Columbia temple.
Hariharasuthan's family in a picture from a photo album. (Submitted by Nagaraj Hariharasuthan )
Earlier this week, BLS International, an agency that processes Indian visas for Canadian citizens, posted a notification on its website suspending visa services across Canada.
The agency has several locations in major cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.
"Security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning," Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for India's Ministry of External Affairs, said during a weekly media briefing.
"Accordingly, they are temporarily unable to process visa applications."
Ketan Raval is travelling to Ottawa to try to find a solution to his visa problem (Submitted by Ketan Raval)
Hariharasuthan said "everybody is getting affected because of this action," and he assumes a lot of people will be applying for visas once the service reopens.
He said his father has been bedridden for a few years, and his mother is the caretaker of the family. But she has not recovered from his brother's death, and Hariharasuthan talks to her every day.
"Now they are missing one at home."
Hariharasuthan said he is constantly monitoring the news, hoping the visa service will resume, but he feels a mix of emotions given his current situation.
"When my parents need me, I am not able to be there, so I am a bit worried and upset for that."
When asked if he has tried to get an emergency exemption, Hariharasuthan said it is frustrating to not hear back from officials, and he is not yet ready to experience that.
"I am already hurt, so I don't want to do that."
Can travel the world but not back home
Another Moncton resident, Ketan Raval, said he is booked to fly to Ottawa on Saturday in search of help.
Raval, who became a Canadian citizen recently, wants to visit his parents in Gujarat and to bring them back to Canada. He said his parents are in their eighties and would not be able to travel alone to Canada.
He said after getting his citizenship, he procrastinated about the visa process, which seemed straightforward to him at the time. Now, with the disruption of visas, he is feeling stressed and has started making calls, hoping to make an emergency appeal.
Saumitra Mujumdar, who is now a Canadian citizen, said he is worried about not being able to visit India this year. (Submitted by Saumitra Mujumdar)
Raval, his wife and daughter have not visited his parents since pandemic restrictions were lifted.
"It doesn't look like it will happen tomorrow," he said, adding he is still optimistic.
"This is definitely a stressful situation for sure," he said. Many Canadians from the Indian diaspora, even those with valid visas, will rethink their travel plans to India given the current tension between the two countries, he said.
Raval laughed as he considered his current sitiuation, saying he now has a passport that allows him to travel across the world but not back home.
Hopes to celebrate with family in India
Another Moncton resident, Saumitra Mujumdar, received his Canadian citizenship recently and said he is now worried that he won't be able to celebrate Diwali, one of India's biggest festivals of lights, with his family this November.
Mujumdar, who lives alone in Moncton, hopes to celebrate with his family in Indore, a city in Madhya Pradesh.
He said he missed the chance to celebrate Diwali with his parents last year and is worried he won't get the chance this year either.
About 80,000 Canadian tourists visited India in 2021, according to India's Bureau of Immigration.