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UK writer Nitasha Kaul detained at Bengaluru airport, deported Nitasha Kaul
Photo Courtesy: Nitasha Kaul X page

UK writer Nitasha Kaul detained at Bengaluru airport, deported

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 26 Feb 2024, 04:32 pm

UK writer and professor Nitasha Kaul has alleged that she was denied entry into India by the central government to attend a conference on democratic and constitutional values in the city, although carrying valid documents with her.

"Denied entry to #India for speaking on democratic & constitutional values. I was invited to a conference as an esteemed delegate by the Govt of #Karnataka (Congress-ruled state) but the Centre refused me entry. All my documents were valid & current (UK passport & OCI)," she said in an X post.

"This is also about what knowledge-making can do! Banning academics, journalists, activists, and writers from India despite all valid documents is pathetic. The evidence is in public. In the country, academic institutions are being forced to toe the line (I have published on this), and outside the country now too, academic silencing?" the professor said.

Nitasha alleged that she spent 12 hours on a flight from London to Bengaluru, and several hours at immigration where they shuttled here and there.

The professor also alleged that she was not provided information on the process, and then restricted her for 24 hours in a holding cell under direct CCTV restricted movement and a narrow area to lie down.

There was also no easy access to food and water, and the airport authorities did not provide basic things such as a pillow and blanket even after making dozens of calls to them, she said.

"The govt at centre in India refused me entry to a conference where I was invited by the state govt. Unless this is fixed, I join the ranks of the Tibetan exiles and Ukrainian exiles, and others throughout history who have faced the arbitrary exercise of brute unreasoning power," she said.

The only glimpse of the sky that she had in 72 hours when Ishe was able to get to the departure gate, Nitasha said.

"Though the professor was exhausted, the poet in me took a pic of the full moon. At the worst was when I was under CCTV 24/7 with bright lights that could not be turned off, cold blowing air from above and no blanket, barely able to fit in the narrow space, tired, without sleep, yearning for fresh air, easy access to food and water, the song "ABCDEFU" by Gayle played in my head, and later when finally able to leave and upon arriving back in London, M People’s "Search for the hero" was my anthem," she said.

Nitasha alleged that 'right-wing Hindu trolls' have for years threatened her with death, rape, and ban among other things. "In the past, authorities have sent police to my elderly ailing mother’s home to intimidate her, even though I live in the UK & my work has no connexion to her, a pious temple-going dejhoor-wearing retired Hindi teacher & my sole surviving parent," she said.

"I've always dismissed such threats as petty (since 2014, disinvite from an arranged talk at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, withdrawal of already publicised lecture on gender at JNU etc all without any official reason/explanation).

"When I was speaking on AI & Buddhism in a third country, an Indian official there tried to strong-arm me into giving them advice & info on that country too, which I refused," she added.

"Registered a complaint on email in writing, which closed with Tagore’s poem: ‘Where the mind is without fear’. BTW, I am not averse to advising govts, or policymakers, or to engagements with a state. However, I should be asked politely, respected for my views & time, and not bullied or coerced + I have to respect the values of those in power," Nitasha said.

She added: "My origin is from a downtown mohalla in Srinagar, Kashmir and I was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh — the land of saffron to the ‘saffronisation' heartland.

"This is about the threat to me & my safety, & the important impact of my work that worries anti-democratic sensibilities (although as I said after speaking as an expert witness at the US Congress, given how I have been repeatedly threatened, if I come to any accident, it probably merits a closer look)."

"I am a globally respected academic & 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 & pro-#dem," the professor Xed.

"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 traveled to India numerous times since. I was invited by a state govt, but refused entry by the central govt," she alleged.

(With UNI inputs)

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