Academic visits to Pakistan might have made Indian babus paranoid: Filippo Osella

The Sussex University scholar said bureaucratic paranoia should not be allowed to impinge on the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

Published: 26th March 2022 06:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th March 2022 06:52 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Renowned anthropologist Filippo Osella has said he suspected his recent academic visits to Pakistan might have triggered paranoia in the Indian administration that ordered his deportation on his arrival at the Thiruvananthpuram airport from the UK on Thursday.

The Sussex University scholar said bureaucratic paranoia should not be allowed to impinge on the pursuit of scientific knowledge. “I hope this is not my last (attempted) visit to Kerala. I also hope that incidents such as those I experienced on Thursday - and which are becoming increasingly common - will not come in the way of collaborations with Indian scientists and universities at a time when the latter are trying tirelessly to internationalise their research endeavours.

I’d rather be thinking that I have been the object of plain paranoid bureaucratic foolhardiness which, arrogant and offensive as it might be, should not be allowed to impinge on the pursuit of scientific knowledge,” Osella told TNIE in an e-mail interview after reaching UK on Friday.

Osella said he was still unaware of the reason for his deportation and guessed that it might have to do with his Pakistani visits for conducting research and attending conferences there. Accusing the immigration officials at Trivandrum international airport for cold-shouldering him, the 65-year-old said they threatened to restrain him when he sought access to his luggage to retrieve medicines for blood pressure.

With a 30-year history of conducting research in the state, Osella said Kerala has become a second home for him and added that he was relieved to be told that the deportation was decreed by the Government of India, and not the Kerala government.

Kodiyeri says Osella’s deportation without explanation is unjust

The officials, however, refused to provide any reason for deporting him despite repeated requests from Osella. Having had to endure a few hardships on being packed off unceremoniously from the airport, the Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies found common grounds with many Indian academicians, who face censorship and disciplinary measures.

“My unfortunate experience does not even come close to the predicaments of many Indian colleagues whose freedom of academic expression in recent years has been severely constrained, often making them the object of censorship and disciplinary measures. My thoughts and solidarity go to them!” he said. The paper which Osella was supposed to present in the international seminar on the lives and livelihoods of Kerala’s coastal communities will be presented by his co-researcher on Saturday.

The study was completed with the help of a group of researchers in Kerala during the last few months. Meanwhile, Osella’s deportation has drawn flak from various corners. CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan issued a statement terming the deportation without explaining the reason as an unjust act and demanded that the government should reveal why they blocked his entry.

“He has been maintaining close contact with Kerala since the 1980s. The public should know what problems have now come up that were not there in the past.” Social critic and political analyst Professor T T Sreekumar of EFLU, Hyderabad, termed Osella’s deportation as unfortunate. Sreekumar was supposed to be the respondent for Osella’s research paper that was slated to be presented in a conference in Thiruvanan - thapuram. “His paper will now be presented by his colleagues. I will miss him for an interesting conversation I was keenly looking forward to.

Among other things, Osella is an author of several important books on Kerala society and culture. Despite setbacks, our intellectual and political dialogues have to move forward. In solidarity,” he wrote. Noted environmentalist S Faizi said denying visas to academics, who don’t promote the Hindutva propaganda, and deporting them have become a norm under the Modi regime.


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