An exchange student from Germany who was to complete his second semester with the Physics department in IIT Madras, was made to return to his country by the immigration department on Monday. 24-year-old Jakob Lindenthal was allegedly told to leave by the Immigration department that insisted that he had violated his visa rules by taking part in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
Over the last week, Jakob Lindenthal, who is from Dresden in Germany, was spotted in mutliple rallies which were carried out across the city against the passing of the Act. But on Monday, he was reportedly informed by staff from his department that he had to visit the immigration department and after a long discussion, he was told to leave the country. According to his friends who spoke to TNM, the immigration department called him over for a meeting on his residence permit, but instead asked him about his views on CAA.
"Jakob was called by his co-ordinator at IIT and he was told that there was an issue with his residence permit and he had to go to the immigration department. Later, he told us that an officer spoke to him about the permit and then casually asked what his opinion was on the anti-CAA protest. When Jakob made his opposition clear, the officer told him that he disagreed. Jakob was asked to wait outside. He was called back and told to leave India immediately," a friend of his told TNM on the condition of anonymity.
The friend told TNM that Jakob offered to sign a letter of apology, but that the offer was rejected. The immigration officials allegedly threatened to deport him if he did not leave on his own accord. "Jakob was told that his activities were beyond the allowed activities as per his visa."
"They also said there was some issue with his residence permit, but he was not intimated about this. His visa was valid for a year from June 2019 to June 2020," the friend added.
Jakob was asked to book his tickets immediately and given time to go to his hostel and collect his stuff. He booked himself on a Chennai- Delhi flight on Monday night, with his flight to Germany at 3.30 am on Tuesday morning. However, Jakob missed his flight to Germany as his Air India flight to Delhi was delayed by four hours. He is now expected to fly out of the country on Tuesday night.
In a farewell message to some classmates Jacob had said, "I am the airport. Leaving. I won't come back. Decided by immigration office."
Jakob still had a semester left to be completed as part of the exchange programme.
Another source told TNM that though the German consulate offered him legal assistance, Jakob felt it was safer to go back.
It is unclear what restrictions were imposed as per Jakob's visa. The source at IIT said that the visa had barred him from taking up any kind of employment, but there were no other restrictions as far as they knew.
A source working at a consulate, however, said that generally foreigners are supposed to stick to their purpose of visit. A host country reserves the power to revoke a visa, ask people to leave or deport them. However, some countries do allow international students to take part in protests.
Jakob's slogans comparing what's unfolding in India to Hitler's Nazi regime had become a point of discussion and his picture holding a placard had featured in newspapers.
He also held a poster protesting police excess against students carrying the slogan 'Uniformed criminals = criminals'.
Speaking to TNM during the protests in Chepauk, he said, "The Indian constitution is a secular one and what the ruling government is doing is a clear form of discrimination. I am from Germany and I am aware of what happens when this form of discrimination is taken too far."