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Invited by Karnataka govt, UK professor denied entry to India on 'orders from Delhi'

Nitasha Kaul, the Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London alleged that immigration officials at Bengaluru airport did not tell her the reason but just said they were acting on orders from Delhi. She alleged that she spent a night in a ‘holding cell’ at the airport.
nirban Bhaumik
Last Updated : 25 February 2024, 16:08 IST
Last Updated : 25 February 2024, 16:08 IST

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New Delhi: An academician based in the United Kingdom has alleged that she was denied entry to India after landing at Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru on Friday to attend a conference organised by the Government of Karnataka.

She alleged that the immigration officials at the KIA, Bengaluru, had informally made references to her criticism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but had not cited any reason for denying her entry, except saying that they had been going by orders from Delhi.

Nitasha Kaul, the Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London, alleged that the immigration officials at the KIA in Bengaluru had not told her the reason for denying her entry to India. They only told her that they had been acting on the orders from Delhi. She spent a night in a ‘holding cell’ at the KIA before being made to board a flight back to London on Saturday.

Kaul, a professor at the School of Social Sciences of the University of Westminster, said that she had been invited by H C Mahadevappa, the social welfare minister of the Government of Karnataka, to attend the conference on “The Constitution and Unity of India” held in Bengaluru on Saturday and Sunday. She alleged that she had been denied entry despite having a valid UK passport and an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.

A ‘Person of Indian Origin’, registered as an OCI, is granted multiple entry, multi-purpose, life-long visa for visiting India, and is exempted from registration with the Foreign Regional Registration Officer or Foreign Registration Officer for any length of stay in India.

The Union government recently cancelled the OCI card issued to Ashok Swain, an academician based in Sweden and a well-known critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. It conveyed to the Delhi High Court that the OCI registration of Swain had been cancelled as he had been found indulging in “illegal activities inimical” to the interests of the sovereignty, integrity, and security of India.

French journalist Vanessa Dougnac also had to leave India recently after the government initiated the process to cancel her OCI registration.

“I am a globally respected academic & (and) public intellectual, passionate about liberal democratic values. I care for gender equity, challenging misogyny, sustainability, civil & political liberties, rule of law. I am not anti-Indian; I am anti-authoritarian & (and) pro-democracy,” Kaul posted on X on Sunday. “Decades of my work speaks for me. The officials informally made references to my criticism of RSS, a far-right Hindu nationalist paramilitary from years ago. I have travelled to India numerous times since. I was invited by a state govt, but refused entry by the central govt.”

She wrote on the social media platform that her travel and logistics had been arranged by the Government of Karnataka. She also made it clear that she had the official invitation letter from the social welfare minister of the state government with her. “I received no notice or info in advance from Delhi that I would not be allowed to enter.”

Kaul was born in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh to a family which had its origin in Jammu and Kashmir's Srinagar.

“Rightwing #HindutvaTrolls have for years threatened me w (with) death, rape, ban etc. In the past, authorities have sent police to my elderly ailing mother’s home to intimidate, even though I live in UK & my work has no connection to her, a pious temple-going dezhor-wearing retired Hindi teacher & my sole surviving parent,” she wrote on X on Sunday.

Kaul alleged that she had been made to spend 24 hours in a ‘holding cell’ at the KIA, Bengaluru, after being denied entry to India on Friday as the British Airways flight to take her back to the UK had not been available till Saturday. She had been placed under ‘direct CCTV’ surveillance with restricted movement. She had had a very narrow place to lie down with no pillow or blanket, alleged the academician, adding that it had also been difficult for her to get water or food.

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Published 25 February 2024, 16:08 IST

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