NEW DELHI: Puducherry-based US historian Peter Heehs, who faced deportation from India for having written a no-holds-barred biography of Sri Aurobindo, has got a respite. After keeping Heehs on tenterhooks for many weeks, the Union Home Ministry on Thursday extended his visa by one more year with effect from April 15, when his visa is scheduled to expire.
Home Ministry officials confirmed that the formal order for extension of Heehs’ visa was issued earlier on Friday. The historian faced heat from the authorities after some Aurobindo followers took objections to his book.
Heehs’ had a difficult time. His visa was to expire on April 15 and the Puducherry Aurobindo Ashram where he has spent nearly four decades, was not really making him feel at home. In fact, there was a distinct possibility of deportation.
It was alleged that he had needlessly trampled over the sentiments of Aurobindo followers, who felt that certain portions of his book were blasphemous.
Heehs had applied for extension of his stay before the Puducherry Foreigner Regional Registration Officer (FRRO). But following formal complaints from a section of Aurobindo followers who accused him of distorting facts of the freedom fighter-turned-spiritual leader’s life in the biography, the FRRO had decided not to extend his visa.
When the matter was reported in the media, Home Minister P Chidambaram had announced that he had asked for a suo motu review of the case and he would take an appropriate decision. Heehs has argued that his views were taken out of context and circulated among fellow ashramites to create confusion.
The American historian has been working on a project of digitising the archival of works of Aurobindo. It took some counter protests and a petition from historians, including Ram Guha and Romila Thapar, to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for Chidambaram to intervene and sort the issue in Heehs favour.