NRI professor denied permission to attend conference in Bengaluru, deported

Nitasha Kaul, professor of politics and international relations at University of Westminster, London, was slated to attend a conference on 'Constitution and Democracy' in Bengaluru

Prof Nitasha Kaul shared this photo of her stranded at the Bengaluru airport without "basic things as a pillow and blanket."
Prof Nitasha Kaul shared this photo of her stranded at the Bengaluru airport without "basic things as a pillow and blanket."

A.J. Prabal

Prof Nitasha KaulShe was invited by the Karnataka government to address a two-day conference on the topic ‘Constitution and Democracy’ at Bengaluru being held on 24-25 February. But when she landed in Bengaluru on Friday, 23 February, she was denied permission to go out of the airport.

She was deported back to London in the next British Airways flight 24 hours later.

Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit born in Gorakhpur, has landed back in London on Sunday. Shocked that she was denied entry despite a valid UK passport, the official invitation from the state government and travel documents, she described her ordeal in a long post on X on Sunday. Here follow edited excerpts from her post:

“I was given no reason by immigration except saying ‘we cannot do anything, orders from Delhi’. My travel & logistics had been arranged by Karnataka and I had the official letter with me. I received no notice or information in advance from Delhi that I would not be allowed to enter.

NRI professor denied permission to attend conference in Bengaluru, deported

"I spent 12 hours in a flight from London to Bangalore, several hours at immigration where they shuttled me here & there but provided no information on the process. I was then kept for the next 24 hours in a holding cell (no BA flight back until next day) under CCTV surveillance, restricted movement and a narrow area to lie down.

"There was no easy access to food and water and I had to make dozens of calls to the airport for basic things like a pillow and a blanket, which they refused to provide. After this harrowing ordeal, I was forced to spend the next 12 hours on the flight back to London.”

“The officials informally referred to my criticism of the RSS, a far-right Hindu nationalist paramilitary from years ago. I have travelled to India numerous times since then. I was invited this time by a state government, but refused entry by the central government.

“How can the world's largest democracy be threatened by my pen or by words? How is it okay for the Indian government to not allow a professor to be at a conference on the Constitution where she was invited by a state government? How is it okay for them to give no reason? It is not the India we cherish, is it?”, her post reads.

Asserting that she is passionate about liberal democratic values and rule of law, Prof Kaul reiterates that she is not anti-India but is anti-authoritarian and pro-democracy.

“Hindutva trolls have for years threatened me 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, who is a pious temple-going retired Hindi teacher & my sole surviving parent,” she writes.

“I always dismissed such threats as petty (since 2014, invitation to deliver a talk at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library and already publicised lecture on gender at JNU etc were withdrawn without any official reason/explanation). When I was speaking on AI & Buddhism in a third country, an Indian official tried to strong-arm me into giving them advice & information on that country, which I had refused,” she explains. She had complained about the official in an email, she adds.

Stating that she is not averse to advising governments, policymakers or engagements with a state, she writes that such requests should be made politely and with respect for her views & time, and not bullied or coerced into respecting the values of those in power.

“I will not advise or consult with those who condone violence, foster hate and repress their population in any country. You cannot buy or bully me, and it is always a ‘No’ to those who do not believe in decency.

“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, and the important impact of my work that worries anti-democratic sensibilities.

Having deposed as an expert witness at the US Congress and in view of the threats she repeatedly received in the past, she expresses apprehension about her personal safety.

“If I come to any accident, it probably merits a closer look,” she writes on X.

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