Three Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) students, who were visiting Italy, were detained by the police in Ventimiglia in the country's northern part near the French-Italian border on Monday.
Akshit Goyal and Deepak Bhatt, from IIT Delhi and Uday Kusupati from IIT Bombay were interning in France. The trio was detained at Ventimiglia railway station despite having valid passports with Schengen visas.
The students allege that this amounted to racism as there were other people too- who had been detained- who hailed from Pakistan and Africa.
The Indian Mission in Rome came to know of the incident from a relative of Akshit and contacted Italy's Ministry of Interior Affairs and police authorities in Ventimiglia, Vikas Swarup, Spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs, said.
The students were released hours later after the Indian mission in Rome intervened on Tuesday. They were flown along with other detainees to Bari, a town almost a 1,000 km away in south of Italy.
On June 1, Akshit Goyal wrote a Facebook post describing the continuing trauma after the incident.
“Being a 20-year old IIT sophomore student, honestly I am too naïve to gauge the proportional magnitude or nature of an attack to be termed or classified as “racist”, but I believe it surely inculcates an attack on a person’s dignity and blatant disrespect towards self-identity in a world which we, the contemporary and the youth, aspire to be one. The Italian consul general says, “Italians are not racists”, but then on the contrary they justify traumatizing a group of innocent young students. Students with validated visas, passports and student I-cards of both the nations. Students that were crying and pleading just to be heard once before being detained.
It was 8:30 in the morning and we had just got down from our train at Ventimiglia (Italy) when we were greeted by about 25 policemen. We had all the proper documents but were still taken to the commissionerate. All our possessions taken away. We couldn't contact anyone. To all our questions, they had just one reply "No Problem."We were then taken to multiple locations. All our actions were recorded. They took our photographs and imprints as if we were criminals. There were other people like us too who had no idea about what was happening to them. After a day full of such atrocities, we were in a state of mental trauma.All the other people held were Pakistanis and Africans and so it clearly seemed to us an act of racial profiling.
In a foreign land, with no friends or family around, imposed actions like these were supposed to imbibe fear, panic and anxiety in us. The notion of being convicted for reasons not known at all is a terrifying one. And for such young students like us, such notions can be overwhelming.
I understand the recent unrest the nations across Europe are going through and hence a fillip in their security systems, but in all fairness should this have implications on an entire community and specially on virtuous and ingenuous students who were there for sole purpose of knowledge sharing through educational institutes across the globe?
In hindsight, what really saddens me is not the trauma and nightmare me and my friends had to go through, but the entire idea of this happening at the backdrop of unlawful and forbidden defense. Unfortunately, this hostile and adamant generalization, and attack based on verboten assumption, clouds the definition and essence of racism. While this experience has left me petrified, I still believe I was really lucky to be coming from a well-to-do family wherein there is an ease and skill to access internet and reach out to several people, which is evidently what they did, reaching out to the Indian Embassy, helpline numbers, professors etc, and seeking help. However what concerns me is that there is a major pie studying in premier institutions of our country comprising of people coming from rural and orthodox background without this reach and contemporary skill sets, still aspiring to change their fortunes by virtue of cognizance sharing. Had I been replaced by any of them, their families could have lost them to another country forever, as refugee for life!!
I am attaching here the letter written by us to the Indian Embassy and here is also the link to it:
We hope the relevant authorities take strict action against this blatant racism.”