Eminent academicians and civil right activists have demanded an apology from the Union Government for unceremonious deportation of a veteran former Swiss diplomat from the airport here last month.

Kurt Vogele, 75, who had worked in India for 13 years in Swiss Embassy as well as the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC), was deported from the Ahmedabad airport on 22 January after he landed here on the invitation of some NGOs.

He was treated badly and told he had “no right to enter India” although the 75-year-old former diplomat had obtained his visa from the Indian Embassy in Switzerland after due process.

News reports suggested that the former Swiss diplomat was deported due to his closeness to pro-Dalit NGO Navsarjan, whose foreign exchange licence was cancelled in 2016 after he had extended its support to the Dalit uprising in Gujarat following the lynching of a family in Una by self-styled cow vigilantes.

In a letter to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, 45 civil rights activists and academics said that Mr Vogele deserves an apology for the treatment meted out to him.

The letter said that the damage caused to India’s image abroad by Mr Vogele’s deportation could be repaired only by a “gracious gesture” to invite him to visit India in “early future”.

Referring to the former diplomat’s proximity to Navsarjan as the probable reason for his deportation, the letter said “under our Constitution, this can surely be no ground for deportation”.

The letter to the foreign minister was signed by eminent people including danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, Dalit rights activist Martin Macwa, Greenpeace India CEO Aakar Patel, former NID director Ashoke Chatterjee, Janvikas chairperson Gagan Sethi, former Planning Commission member Dr Syeda Hameed and many others.