Posted on August 3, 2011

It’s Racist to Bar Me from Your Country! Meet the Indian Husband in Immigration Battle Who Refuses to Learn English and Is Calling on Others to Join Him

Sanjay Jha and David Williams, Daily Mail (London), August 3, 2011

The Indian man challenging immigration laws which block non-English speakers from coming to live in Britain said yesterday he hopes ‘many other people’ will come if he wins.

Talking about his case for the first time, Vali Chapti, a farmer who wants to join his wife in Leicester, also insisted that he would never learn English.

Speaking to the Daily Mail in his remote village, he said he could easily ‘get by’ without English because there were many Gujarati speakers in Leicester and it would be the main language where he would live.

The 57-year-old also branded Britain’s immigration system ‘racist and discriminatory’ and said his human rights had been breached in a ‘disgraceful way’ by rules introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May requiring immigrants to have a basic command of English.

His wife Rashida, 54, has begun a court challenge funded by legal aid against the rules, which are aimed at ensuring immigrants can integrate into British society.

Mr Chapti said he was confident his case would be successful and added that hoped to bring one of his sons with him to the UK.

‘How can the British Government deny me the right to live with my wife at this late stage of my life because I am unable to speak the language?’ asked Mr Chapti, who has been married for 37 years.

He said several of their seven children had previously applied for visas to join their mother but they too had been turned down.

Mr Chapti, who has seen his wife once in the past six years, said: ‘I have faith in the right of a husband and wife to be together. I want to come as soon as I can to England.

‘However long it takes we will fight until we receive justice in this case. If we are rejected, we will appeal again and again for our human rights to be respected.’

And he claimed that if the challenge is successful, it will set a precedent that will ‘open the gates’ for other spouses around the world kept apart by the rules introduced as part of the Government’s attempts to curb net immigration.

‘My wife may be fighting for me, however when we win the victory it will help so many other people who want to come to the UK but can’t due to the present immigration law making English mandatory.’

Mr Chapti said he had dropped out of school aged nine–he can barely read or write in his mother tongue, Gujarati–and has no intention of trying to learn English.

‘It’s not easy to learn a foreign language late in life especially when I have not even finished my proper education at school in India and, except Gujarati, I don’t speak any other language properly.’

The High Court challenge last week provoked widespread debate, with Mrs Chapti claiming that even though her husband would not learn the language if he was given permission to join her at the home she shares with relatives in Leicester, he would be able to work in the clothes factory where she is a machinist.

She moved to the UK with her parents six years ago, travelling on a British protected passport first issued when the family lived in Malawi, Africa, then a British colony.

Later, Mrs Chapti successfully applied for naturalisation as a British citizen, then attempted to ‘send for’ her husband and youngest child.

Manjit Gill, QC, representing Mrs Chapti, told the High Court in Birmingham the challenge to the new rules was based on Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to a ‘private and family life’, and Article 12, the right to marry.

The case also argues that the language tests for non-EU migrants discriminate on race grounds against migrants from India, Pakistan and the Middle East.

Throughout the debate one crucial voice had been missing–that of Mr Chapti. Yesterday the Mail traced him to the farming area of Valan, some 250 miles from Mumbai.

The community of 15,000 is dominated by seven mosques and has strong ties to Leicester and Blackburn, with families regularly sending money back to loved ones. Unlike many similar towns, there is no English language learning centre.

Of his lack of English, Mr Chapti said: ‘I do not think it will be any kind of problem for me–my wife can speak and understand some English and relatives speak it very well. Why should it be a problem?’

Mr Chapti, a deeply devout Muslim who prays five times a day at the mosque, divides his time in Valan between his family farm and religious work, teaching the virtues of Islam and spending 45 days each year touring religious shrines.

He follows a strict Islamic lifestyle and unlike neighbours has no TV in the three-bedroomed mud-brick home with a flat tile roof that he shares with six family members.

His income of around £4 a week, made working the family’s eight acres of land, is augmented by money sent from two sons living in Africa.

Of the Chaptis’ five sons and two daughters, only one has visited their mother in the UK. ‘We don’t ask my wife for any money as she is struggling to save money from her meagre salary of a machine operator in a hosiery factory,’ Mr Chapti said.

She earns around £200 a week, but also works part-time as a machinist at a second factory when work is available, which adds around £400 a month to her income. Her monthly rent amounts to £525.

So determined are the Chaptis to save money to buy visas that Mrs Chapti did not return home four months ago for the marriage of one of her sons, Javed.

‘I missed my mother at the most important function of my life but I guess she is busy in fighting for our rights,’ said Javed at his shop at the main market in Valan.

He said the whole family first applied for visas in 2008 but were refused.

They applied the following year with the same result. ‘We have spent a lot of money in all this process and feel disappointed at not getting a favourable result,’ said Javed.

The family see Mrs Chapti as a ‘champion of human rights’ and are confident she will win the case.

Another son, Juned, said: ‘My mother is a very brave lady and fighting this case to bring justice for us.’

Last night Mrs Chapti said: ‘If we win this case, others in India and other countries will also benefit. I am fighting for my husband and all those other people too, who deserve the chance to come to the UK to be with their partners.

‘If I lose, I can take the case to a higher court–the European Court of Human Rights.’