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FORUM-ASIA alarmed by deportation of academic in India, raises academic freedom concerns

FORUM-ASIA expressed concern over India’s deportation of Prof. Nitasha Kaul, a critic of BJP and human rights in Kashmir, raising alarms on academic freedom and free speech.



The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) has raised concerns over the recent detention and deportation of Professor Nitasha Kaul, a British academic with Kashmiri roots, in India. Professor Kaul, a faculty member at the University of Westminster in London, was prevented from entering India upon her arrival for a scheduled conference in Bengaluru. The conference, titled ‘Constitution and National Unity Convention,’ was organized by the Karnataka government.

Professor Kaul has been a staunch critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its policies, particularly voicing her opposition to human rights violations in the Indian-administered region of Kashmir following the revocation of its special status in 2019. Her deportation has ignited debates on academic freedom and the freedom of speech within the democratic framework of India.

Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, expressed solidarity with Professor Kaul, emphasizing the importance of academic mobility and the role of scholars in challenging power structures and contributing to intellectual discourse.

Upon her arrival in India, Professor Kaul was denied entry by immigration officials, who, according to her, provided no formal reason for the denial. She recounted that the officials mentioned receiving orders from Delhi, citing her critical stance on the RSS and its leaders as a possible reason for the entry denial. Despite her extensive public work and previous testimonies to the U.S. House of Representatives advocating for human rights in Kashmir, this marked the first instance of her being officially invited by a state government and subsequently facing such a restriction.

The incident has sparked a wide array of reactions, including criticism from Mehbooba Mufti, the president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who accused the BJP of using travel bans and passport revocation as tools to suppress dissent. Conversely, figures like Kanwal Sibal, a former foreign secretary and current Chancellor of JNU, defended the government’s decision, suggesting that Kaul’s critical views on Kashmir and the BJP warranted the denial of entry.

Professor Kaul’s deportation has not only raised questions about the state of free speech and academic freedom in India but has also highlighted the broader issue of how dissenting voices are treated in the country. The academic has remained hopeful about returning to India, underscoring her commitment to transparency and public intellectualism despite the challenges faced.

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Ask your Indian PM why there is no room for you to develop in India and need to go elsewhere. Why?!?