Updated: September 6, 2015 11:43:00 am
In the city to address students of Symbiosis International University on Teacher’s Day as part of a lecture series titled “Festival of Thinkers,” Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was caught off guard on Saturday when a foreign student asked him what he could do to create a sense of security among foreign students in India who face discrimination on account of their skin colour or foreign descent.
First denying that any such thing could happen in a country where everyone is considered as “brothers and sisters,” Singh, when pointed out by students that this did happen, said he was sending out an appeal to all Indian students to consider their foreign counterparts as their brothers and not to practise any discrimination as this would send a wrong message to the world about India.
The question was posed to Singh by a foreign student, Simon Kuany, who hails from South Sudan.
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“When we go out, especially in some college campuses, people call us out as ‘Aye Kaalia’ or Blackie. There are many stereotypes about us like if it’s a Nigerian student, people assume he must be a drug addict. Ask any foreign student and they will tell you the discrimination they have faced, particularly at the Pune University or varsities like Bhartiya Vidyapeeth. When we talk about security, is it just about physical security or even a sense of security due to mental peace?” he told reporters.
Incidentally, Kuany’s complaint to the union minister at the public forum came on the day when the first-of-its-kind national consultation meet was going on at another location in Pune on the subject of “Internationalisation of Higher Education”, was jointly organised by Savitribai Phule Pune University and Association of Indian Universities. The meet was being organised to make Indian education go global and attract foreign students to India.
Addressing Singh at the Q and A session, Kuany also pointed out to another problem that foreign students faced in the city, which was about the Foreigner Registration Office that usually inordinately delayed registering foreign students, which is mandatory on arrival in India. “It takes something between four to five weeks and every time that we go there, we are told they have a new system. Why so many system changes leading to delays?” he asked.
Singh assured Kunay that he would personally look into the matter. “Within a month, I assure that this problem will be resolved.”
Meanwhile, speaking at the lecture series, Singh spoke about the need for value-based education and why universities needed to retain and cash on the Indian system of education where comprehensive personality development, and not merely distributing knowledge, was the aim.
Citing an article written by Thomas Friedman on comparisons between Al-Qaeda and IT major Infosys, Singh told students how both entities born around the same time had a young and talented youth force which was highly committed. “The difference between the two is in the thinking process. One symbolises creative talent while other the destructive capability. And from where did this thinking start? I would say the fault lies in the education system and I am ready for an open debate on this subject,” said Singh.
First such complaint, will look into it: Symbiosis
When Pune Newsline asked Dr Vijay Khare, director of International Centre at Symbiosis, about the issues raised by Kuany about foreign students at the Symbiosis event, he said, “In the last three years that I have been heading international students affairs, no such complaint has come to me. We keep trying to organise cultural events, food and sports festivals to ensure foreign students mix with Indian students and local culture. However, the complaint is serious. As soon as I heard about it from the media, I discussed the issue with Vice-Chancellor. We will personally look into this to ensure there is no such unwelcome feeling amongst foreign students.”
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