Saturday, June 21, 2014

British academic denied entry into India

NB - The attitude towards intellectual freedom is the single most important defining feature of a democratic society. The attempt to crush or silence the mind is a step towards totalitarianism. In this respect there is no difference between left-wing or right wing tyranny - see The Zhivago Affair (Incidentally, Jawaharlal Nehru is reported to have played a role in preventing Pasternak's forced exile). If it is true that Dr Vera-Sanso has been denied admission to India because her ideas have displeased India's new political rulers, it is a shame, and an indication of a totalitarian mentality- Dilip

A British academic, who has published widely on gender relations in urban and rural India and on the impact of liberalisation and global economy on livelihoods, was turned away at the Hyderabad airport on June 8. This was confirmed by the Communications Manager of Birkbeck, University of London, in an emailed response to The Hindu. “We can confirm that Dr. Penny Vera-Sanso, Principal Investigator for research projects on poverty and ageing in India, at Birkbeck, University of London, was turned away at the Hyderabad airport early on Sunday morning, June 8.”

She had been invited to attend the 12th Global Conference on Ageing — organised by the International Federation of Ageing — in Hyderabad between June 10 and June 13. “She was refused entry by immigration officials without explanation. She was travelling with a valid passport and visa issued to her for the purpose of developing further research on ageing with India’s academic community, last used for a visit to India in March 2014.”

She had participated in the fifth national convention of the Right to Food Campaign that was organised in Gujarat from March 1 to 3 and mounted her exhibition in Sanand and Ahmedabad. Dr. Vera-Sanso has been involved in research in India since 1990. According to the official statement from Birkbeck, she also met an official of the Indian High Commission in London on her return but was not told why she was denied entry into India.

Though there was no official confirmation about the reason for her being denied entry, Dr. Vera-Sanso has apparently been given to understand that it had something to do with her Gujarat visit. Also, she has been told that she would not be allowed to enter the country for another two years and she should now apply only in April 2016.