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Akhilesh skips Harvard

Lucknow, April 26: Akhilesh Yadav has decided not to lecture on the Mahakumbh mela at Harvard University this evening to protest against a minister’s detention at Boston airport.

The Uttar Pradesh chief minister has, however, deputed chief secretary Javed Usmani to make the presentation, the officer on special duty to the chief minister, Madhukar Jaitley, said.

On Wednesday, state urban development minister Azam Khan was detained at Boston Logan International Airport for “further questioning” when he landed by a British Airways flight, Samajwadi Party MPs said in Parliament today. Khan is reported to have said he was being “humiliated” because “I happen to be a Muslim”.

Akhilesh and Khan were cutting short their trip to the US and flying out earlier than scheduled, sources said. They are expected to land in Lucknow on April 29.

India has taken up the issue with the US State Department in Washington, embassy spokesperson M. Sridharan said.

Sources said immigration and border protection officials had treated Akhilesh and his team with courtesy and respect when they landed at Boston airport. The officials even helped them fill up forms for entry into the US.

The team was received and escorted by officials of the Indian consulate general in New York. After they were cleared for entry, a lady officer of the US customs and border protection wing of homeland security took Khan to an adjacent room “for further questioning”. She cleared him after a 10-minute interview.

Late tonight, the Harvard University website said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, today’s Harvard without Borders: Mapping the Kumbh Mela panel speaker will be UP chief secretary Javed Usmani in place of UP CM Akhilesh Yadav.”

Usmani will be joined by professors Diana Eck, Gregg Greenough and Rahul Mehrotra of Harvard University. Professor Tarun Khanna of the same University will serve as mediator, the website added.