Jakob Lindenthal, the German exchange student at IIT-Madras who said he was asked to leave the country last month for attending protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), has been advised against re-entering India on his current visa.
Speaking to The Sunday Express from Dresden, Lindenthal said he is still keen on finishing his programme at IIT-Madras, but has been advised by the Indian embassy in Germany to not use his current visa, valid till June 27 this year, to go back to India.
The Consular Wing of the Indian embassy in Germany did not respond to questions shared via email by this newspaper.
Lindenthal is a student of Technical University-Dresden (TUD), who had been studying in the Physics department of IIT-Madras as part of the academic and research collaboration between the two institutions since 2008. About five students of TU-Dresden have been going to IIT every year under this exchange programme. TU-Dresden was ranked 179th worldwide in QS Rankings for 2020 and 157th in the Times Higher Education (THE) Ranking. IIT-Madras, on the other hand, stood at the 271st position in QS Rankings and falls in the 601-800 bracket in THE rankings. Weak strength of international students on campus is one of the reasons why Indian universities fare poorly on global rankings.
IIT-Madras was awarded the ‘Institute of Eminence’ tag by the government last year. As an IoE, IIT-Madras will receive up to Rs 1,000 crore from the HRD Ministry to improve its performance in world rankings. Under the IoE scheme, institutions are permitted to admit more international students to improve their rank.
Lindenthal had joined IIT-Madras on July 26, 2019, and would have completed his course work by May this year. However, on December 23, he was given less than a day by the immigration office in Chennai to book his tickets, pack, vacate his room in Bhadra hostel of IIT-Madras and leave the country.
IIT-Madras has not offered TU-Dresden any concrete explanation for why the student was asked to leave the country in a few hours. TU-Dresden’s deputy press spokesperson, Konrad Kaestner, confirmed to The Sunday Express that the university had reached out to IIT-Madras seeking clarification regarding Lindenthal’s sudden departure.
“IIT-Madras informed TU-Dresden this week that they were surprised that Jakob (Lindenthal) had to leave the country. They have also said that the institute did not ask him to leave, but the immigration authority did. They also said that the institute does not have any formal notification from the immigration authorities. They don’t know if he was deported and don’t have information on the validity of his visa or resident permit. IIT-Madras also does not know if he will be allowed back into the country,” Kaestner said over phone on Friday, adding that the clarification by IIT-Madras was given by Akshaya Shridharr, the institute’s Inbound Coordinator (Study tours). IIT-Madras has also turned down TU-Dresden’s offer to give an official statement to support its student.
Asked whether the incident would affect TU-Dresden’s collaboration with IIT-Madras, Kaestner said, “I cannot answer that question as the MoU was not signed by me. What I can say is that the university wants to have complete information (about what happened). We want to know if this could happen to another student (of TU-Dresden) and what were the reasons for doing it in this harsh way. The student had a few hours to leave the country. It’s not a fair way to treat a guest of the country.”
— Jinoy Jose Palathingal (@jinoyjosep) December 23, 2019
When contacted, IIT-Madras Director Bhaskar Ramamurthi directed this newspaper to the institute’s media team. Till date, the institute hasn’t answered the questions emailed by The Sunday Express on December 31, 2019. A reminder sent to Ramamurthi via SMS on January 2 went unacknowledged.
Before his departure last month, Lindethal had told this newspaper that on December 23, he was asked by the immigration authorities to leave India, after he attended a protest on campus against the CAA on December 16. The same day, he had attended another protest in Chennai, where he was photographed holding a placard stating “Uniformed Criminals = Criminals”. On December 19, he participated in another protest in which he carried a placard saying “No Democracy without Dissent” and “1933-1945. We have been there.”
According to him, on December 21, the international office of IIT-Madras informed him about being summoned by the immigration office in Chennai. He told this newspaper that he was in Bengaluru at that time, participating in a frisbee tournament. On December 23, when he went to the institute’s international office, he was again asked to go to the immigration office.
On reaching the immigration office the same day, Lindenthal was asked about the purpose of his visit, his resident permit, political opinions and what he did during his leisure time. Lindenthal also said that an immigration officer eventually asked him to leave the country as the government felt his presence at the protests was inappropriate and that he had violated the visa regulations by doing so.
In an interview to this newspaper, HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had said that the students protesting CAA were “misguided”. “It’s also possible that the students are misguided. Amendment of the Citizenship Act is not new. It has been amended many times, during the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In different circumstances and at different times, this Act has been amended. This means that you (protesters) haven’t understood it completely. And if you continue to oppose despite understanding it, that is unfortunate,” he had said.
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