Investigations have been ordered by Bihar state government, after discovering that 173 foreign nationals — including 167 from Pakistan alone — have gone missing during religious trips to a northern district.
Officials said all of them had come to Gopalganj, a small district in northern Bihar bordering Uttar Pradesh state, on the missionary visa — one of the 18 types of visa issued by the Indian government to people seeking entry for religious reasons, or those looking to join a foreign organization in India while doing government of India-approved missionary work.
The Right to Information Act helped in surfacing the incident after a local resident sought details from the government. The information obtained from the office of the district superintendent of police revealed that at least 167 of the foreign nationals missing after visiting Gopalganj were Pakistani nationals.
Of the remaining six, five came from Uzbekistan while another came from Russia. Gopalganj district Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Tiwari said he was holding discussions with the local district magistrate and had ordered an investigation into their “mysterious disappearance”. Doubts were raised why so many Pakistan nationals would choose to visit Gopalganj district when it had no sites of particular religious importance — such as Ajmer Sharif, Khwaja Garib Nawaz, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti or Khwaja Nizamuddin Dargah elsewhere.
“Gopalganj only has Madhavlal ka Mazar as a religious site. We are wondering why so many people would be interested in visiting the place and what kind of religious activities they must have been involved in,” asked district Waqf Committee secretary AH Siddiqui.
According to him, most of the local Muslim villagers settled in Karachi after the partition of India. “So they keep coming to this town to look after the landed properties of their ancestors or meet the neighbors. But so many people coming to this place on religious tour appear strange when this district has nothing important to show in the name of religious activities,” he said.