The city’s only Hindu priest is being forced to leave the country due to a row over an English test.
The Home Office has told Kapil Dev Sharma and his family to return to India – leaving the Hindu community without a priest to carry out funerals and weddings.Last week there were two deaths and there is now no-longer a priest to carryout the services because Mr Sharma’s work permit has been cancelled.His two children, aged eight and 13, also face the prospect of being pulled out of their schools. The 41-year-old lives at the Hindu temple in Carlton Road and is the process of appealing against the Home Office’s decision.
But last July, after returning home from a visit to India, he was stopped at Birmingham Airport, where he was told he had not passed the compulsory English exam which would allow him to stay in the country.
He said: “I was humiliated and treated as a criminal while they questioned me for five hours.
“I am finding it hard to sleep and I am getting a lot of headaches.
“I feel very upset and this is not good for me, my family and the community.”
“They want all of the family to leave.
“In 2012 I took the tests in writing, reading and English and I got the certificate I need.”
To cover Mr Sharma’s services an appeal has gone out for other priests to get in touch but if one does not come forward a non ordained priest may have to take on the responsibilities – which some families may not like.
There are more than 7,000 Hindus in Nottingham but others travel from outside the area to visit the Carlton Road temple.
Temple chairman Brij Phakey said: “The Home Office are saying that he did not take the exams. “We know for a fact that he went to London and took the test but the Home Office at first said he was not there.
“When he proved he was, they found a recording and are now saying his voice doesn’t match. “It is absolutely ridiculous and we can’t accept it. The whole community is suffering and we can’t just get another priest. Priests don’t grow on trees. “He is loved and adored by the community and it is not as easy as just picking a new one because he has the right training. “He is part of our family and he is being humiliated. How do we conduct a ceremony without a priest, this is one of the most important things.”These rituals are necessary and without a priest we cannot function.”He is not a burden on society and he makes a massive contribution and they are forcing him to leave.”
Nottingham East MP Chris Leslie is trying to help Mr Sharma.
He said: “I’d be concerned if the Hindu community locally find it harder to observe essential religious ceremonies because of this unexpected situation. “So I am asking the Home Office to be flexible and bear this in mind while they look at the detail in this case.”
The Trent Centre for Human Rights, based in Regent Street, Nottingham, is also supporting Mr Sharma with his case. A spokesman said: “This is a legal battle between the priest and the Home Office.”He is the only priest available in Nottingham to carry out ceremonies. “There has already been one judicial review last year and the Home Office agreed to consider his case but refused to allow him to stay in the country.
“We are now helping him with another judicial review against that decision and we are hoping to put that through in the next few weeks.”
A Home Office spokesman told the Post: “All applications are considered on their individual merits and in accordance with the immigration rules. When someone has no leave to remain in the UK, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.”.
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