The ‘British citizen’ who was a Punjab minister
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Going by a recent home ministry ruling, Avtar Henry wasn't an Indian citizen during either of his two terms as a Congress minister in Punjab or on any of the six occasions that he contested Assembly elections.
Following a complaint by Henry's estranged son that his father holds a British passport, the ministry's foreigners division has ruled that Henry has not been an Indian national since 1981. That is when the earliest records are available. Henry had acquired an Indian passport that year and renewed it in 2004. This meant he was holding two passports, his son has been alleging since 2009.
Henry's son, Gurjit Singh Sanghera, has been cut off from his father's property. Henry had married Gurjit's mother in the UK; she died this year.
Henry's defence is that that he had submitted an application for Indian citizenship in 1970. The ministry sought an update from the Punjab home department which reportedly found no record of any such application with the Jalandhar DC's office.
Born in Kakkarkalan village of Jalandhar district, Henry, now 66, had gone to London in 1960 with his brother and started a career as a taxi driver. He adopted the name Henry and it was in the UK that he married Surinder Kaur, who hails from Shankar village in Jalandhar. He acquired British citizenship in 1968.
He returned to India in 1969 and charted a phenomenal rise in his career. The former taxi driver is today the owner of Kartar Buses and Transport Company, Moga, which runs a fleet of hundreds of buses and trucks in Punjab.
On arrival, he started working as an inspector and then became manager in the company, which was owned by an NRI and later bought by Henry. He married a second time in India.
He was appointed chairman of the district transport cell in 1982-83 and contested the Assembly election on a Congress ticket in 1986, losing by just 1,200 votes. He went on to win three straight elections — 1992, 1997 and 2002 — from Jalandhar (North) and served as minister for excise and taxation, industry, and food and supplies.
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