Visva-Bharati teachers explore legal help for Bangladeshi girl
A section of Visva-Bharati teachers and students has pledged legal and moral support to a Bangladeshi girl who was asked by the Centre to leave India for “anti-government activities” after she had posted on Facebook pictures of protests against the CAA at the varsity.
The foreigners’ regional registration office of the Union home ministry had on Wednesday served a notice on Afsara Anika Meem, a first-year undergraduate student at the central varsity’s Kala Bhavan, asking her to leave India within 15 days.
The girl from Kustia in Bangladesh had come to India in late 2018 to pursue her Bachelor of Design degree at the department of fine arts.
Even as the girl wondered how to handle the situation, a section of varsity teachers got in touch with senior lawyers in Calcutta on Thursday to seek legal remedy against the order. “The girl had posted a few photographs on social media and on the basis of that, she has been asked to leave the country. We have already contacted a senior lawyer of Calcutta High Court and will extend all support to her,” said a senior professor of Visva-Bharati.
High court lawyer Samim Ahmed said the marching order to Afsara could be legally contested because there was no evidence in the notice of her involvement in the “anti-government activities”.
“I have gone through the order and her Facebook posts. The order does not cite any particular activity that shows she went against the government. She has the right to comment and it is a very vague reason for the Centre to ask her to leave the country. The order was served even without hearing her,” said Ahmed, one of the lawyers contacted by varsity teachers.
“I will extend legal support to her,” he added.
Students and teachers criticised the “leave-India notice” to the Bangaldeshi girl.
“Ours is a free country where US President Donald Trump can be invited even after proposing to mediate between India and Pakistan, but a girl from Bangladesh can’t post on Facebook photographs of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The order has meted injustice to her,” said Somnath Sow, an SFI leader at Visva-Bharati.
“To protest the incident, we have called a meeting cutting across political lines on Monday. We will certainly launch a protest against the order,” Sow added.
The girl on Thursday visited the foreigners’ regional registration office in Calcutta where officials apparently told her that they couldn’t do anything as the matter was under the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.
“The officials concerned have suggested that she can write to a few offices explaining her side of the story,” one of her friends said.
The students, who participated in the anti-CAA protests at Visva-Bharati, confirmed that Afsara was not involved in any such events. “Visva-Bharati is a place where students from various countries come for study and become our friends. The maximum number of foreign students come from Bangladesh. I can confirm that she did not participate in any protest at all. We are with her,” said Swapnanil Mukherjee, an economics student at Visva-Bharati.
Swapnanil had been attacked on the campus by goons for participating in anti CAA-protests on January 15 night.
Sources have said Visva-Bharati has around 100 students from Bangladesh and many of them are afraid following the leave-India letter to Afsara.
“Many Bangladeshi students had gone to see protests against things ranging from free hike to the CAA. Afsara had only posted a few photographs on Facebook. This is a scary situation for us,” said a student from Bangladesh.
However, ABVP leaders at Visva-Bharati are happy with the action against Afsara as they had written to vice-chancellor Bidyut Chakrabarty on January 23 demanding inquiry and action against the student from Bangladesh.
They had sent a copy of the letter to the offices of the Prime Minister and the foreign minister in Delhi.
ABVP leader Apoorva Sharod said: “We had pointed out the girl’s role in the anti-CAA protest in our letter to the VC.”