A German student was asked to leave India days after he attended a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. During a protest in Chennai, he had carried a poster that made a reference to the Nazi rule in his own country: “1933 to 1945 – we have been there”.
Jakob Lindenthal was at IIT Madras as an exchange student in the Department of Physics. He said the Foreigners Regional Registration Office had given him “oral directions” to leave India soon after he returned to Chennai after a short trip to Bengaluru.
Shortly before he was to take his flight home on Monday night, Lindenthal told The Indian Express:
After I reached Chennai this morning, my course coordinator advised me to meet immigration officials immediately. When I reached there, they cited some administrative issues related to my residential permit in India. After I resolved their queries and it was clear that there were no issues regarding my residential permit, they started asking me about my politics and hobbies. It was an extensive casual conversation.
They asked about CAA and my participation in anti-CAA protests. We discussed the demonstration culture. There were three officers including one who asked me all questions. All of them were unnamed. Towards the end of the conversation, they said I may have to leave the country immediately for violating my student visa rules.
When I asked for a written letter, they returned my passport and said that I may leave. They said I will get the written letter but I did not receive one. Soon, I rushed back to IIT campus, booked my ticket, packed everything and left for the airport.
I received a call from an official in the Dean’s office. She suggested that I may leave tomorrow. Since it is going to be Christmas eve tomorrow, I chose to leave immediately.
At one point, the officer, referring to my decision to take part in protests, said I was uninformed, that I should not have attended protests when I didn’t know what I was protesting about. I disagreed. I replied that it was all about basic human rights of people…The conversation was not aggressive, I was moderate in my answers and explained my views.
I do love the IIT-M campus, I love India but I am concerned about illiberal extremes in the country…In Germany, nobody is ever evicted for participating in a legal demonstration.
K Sethupathi, the head of the physics department, and Dean S Sivakumar told The Indian Express that they were unaware of the incident. Unidentified persons claimed that an IIT official had sent a report about Lindenthal’s participation in the protests to “higher-ups”. Sivakumar said he was not aware of such a report either.
An official at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office said Lindenthal violated visa rules if he attended the protest, and the institution was bound to report the matter to authorities. “This isn’t the same as deportation,” the official said. “His visa may be cancelled soon.”