A Bangladeshi student at West Bengal’s Visva-Bharati University has been asked to leave India for taking part in “anti-government activities” after she posted pictures of anti-Citizenship Act protests on her campus, reported The Telegraph on Thursday.
The student, Afsara Anika Meem, a first-year student at the university, was trolled on social media after she posted the photos. One of her friends claimed that around 250 social media posts described her as an “anti-national” even though she did not participate in the demonstrations. Her posts attracted attention from pro-government trolls who demanded that she be sent back.
Meem, who is originally from Kushtia district in Bangladesh, came to India late in 2018 for a bachelors’ course in design from the university’s department of fine arts.
The images Meem had posted were from several demonstrations at Visva-Bharati University in December. The notification from the Centre, dated February 14, was issued by the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office under the Ministry of External Affairs. She was sent two emails, one on February 14 that asked the student to meet officials five days later. The other one was sent on February 20, when she was asked to report to the FRRO on February 24.
However, the student claimed she checked her emails after receiving the letter on Wednesday. There are reportedly two orders in the letter that asked the student to leave the country within 15 days after receiving the notice. “Whereas Afsara Anika Meem, holder of Bangladesh passport…Is present in India on the strength of S-1 (student) visa bearing…studying a course on Bachelor of Design at Visva-Bharati University, West Bengal,” the notice read. “And whereas she is found to have engaged in anti-government activities. And such activity being a breach of her visa, has thus committed visa violation.”
Meem said she was unable to figure out what she had done wrong “to face such a punishment”, adding that she had posted the pictures “out of curiosity” as her friends had participated in the protests. “But when I found that a particular group of people was trolling me on social media, I immediately deactivated my Facebook account,” she told the newspaper. “I am really innocent.”
The Bangladeshi student added that she came to India to study and become an artist, adding that she was uncertain about her future. Meem, along with some of her friends, is expected to meet FRRO officers in Kolkata on Thursday for a review of the decision.
Students and teachers at the university suspected that someone had a filed a complaint in order to end her career.
Meanwhile, an unidentified official at the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Kolkata said they were unaware of the notice. “But we knew that she was under scanner and had informed our superiors in Dhaka,” the official said. “In such cases, there is very little we can do.”
In December, a German exchange student at Indian Institute of Technology-Madras was sent back to his country for participating in protests against the Citizenship Act. Jakob Lindenthal was an exchange student at IIT-Madras’ Department of Physics. An official at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office said Lindenthal had violated visa rules by attending the protest, and the institution was bound to report the matter to authorities.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11 last year, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, leading to protests against it. At least 29 people died until last week during the protests, with 19 in Uttar Pradesh, six in Assam, two in Karnataka – all ruled by the BJP. Two people were killed in West Bengal last month.
On Sunday, fresh violence erupted in North East Delhi after supporters and opposers of the amended citizenship law clashed. The number of casualties as a result of large-scale mob violence in Delhi, much of it directed at Muslims, climbed to 34 on Thursday morning.