Indian American’s mission to reunite his family


New York : An Indian American teenager whose parents were deported to India last year is among three students to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee championship in Washington later this month.

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Kunal Sah, an eighth-grader, is an angry speller because of the immense pressure he feels to reunite his family. Presently, he lives with his uncle and aunt in a motel in the US state of Utah.

The 13-year-old was a finalist in the championship last year.

The competition stared in 1925 with the purpose to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage. The event is open to students who are less than 16 years old.

The prize-winning participation by Indian-Americans has been the recent trend in the spelling competition since Balu Natarajan won it in 1985.

Five of the last seven champions, top four competitors in 2005 and 30 out of the 275 competitors to clear the written round in 2006 were of the Indian American community.

"What I want to do is win the nationals and if I do then there is a chance that my mom and dad will have a better chance of coming back," Kunal said.

Kunal's parents, Sarita and Kanhai Lal Sah, were deported to India in July 2006 after having lived in America for 16 years. The Sahs' bid to obtain political asylum, a process they started in 1991, was turned down after US courts claimed they made inconsistent statements in their applications.

Sah who owned several motels in US state of Utah, claimed in his application that, as a Hindu activist, he faced danger in India because of the rise of Islamic militancy and communal unrest. The Sahs were ultimately forced to leave for India while their son stays in the US in the care of his uncle.

Their immigration lawyer, Steven Lawrence Jr., said he believed the Sahs might yet be able to return, perhaps on a visa for people who own businesses in the US. But their case is exceedingly complicated and even Lawrence acknowledges that a reunion in America is not likely anytime soon.