Academics protest denial of Indian visa to Pakistani delegates

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NEW DELHI, Jul 07: In protest against the decision of Ministry of External Affairs to deny visas to Pakistani academics for attending a seminar in New Delhi, nearly 80 scholars from several universities such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton have mooted a resolution to not hold conferences in such countries anymore, ‘The Indian Express’ has reported.

India had banned the scholars from attending the conference organised by the Association for Asian Studies and Ashoka University in New Delhi. The Association for Asian Studies, since 2014, has been holding an annual conference called AAS in Asia. The previous conferences were held in Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, while this year’s event is scheduled to be held from July 5 to 8 at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

About 80 scholars attended a protest meeting, which raised enough funds to rent a hall at the conference’s venue in New Delhi so that the banned academics could join them digitally.

“As a scholar of Pakistani origin working on Pakistan, I received the AAS’ reply to the Indian government’s restrictions on Pakistani scholars [including those who are dual nationals but originally from Pakistan] with deep concern and disappointment,” a statement by Salman Hussain from The Graduate Centre, CUNY, read. Hussain is one of the academics who was not allowed to travel to India.

“I am dismayed with the AAS’ tepid response to the blanket ban — based on the association’s presumption that this reaction was expected of the Indian government given the tense relations between the two countries,” Hussain added.

The academics, at the meeting, mooted four resolutions. One of them was to demand that all future conferences by the Association of Asian Studies should be in countries that “do not have official or unofficial policies” to exclude people based on their nationality. Another resolution urged the Indian government to reconsider its ban on the scholars.

Independent researcher Sinjini Mukherjee, one of the organisers of the protest meeting, said there has been no final decision yet.

In a letter to Ashoka University dated February 19, the Ministry of External Affairs had reportedly told the organisers explicitly not to include Pakistani scholars at the event.

“The ministry has no objection from the political angle for the proposed event with foreign participants [except participants from Pakistan], as stated in your aforesaid communication, subject to the clearance of Ministry of Home Affairs as applicable and nodal ministry,” the letter read.

Several academics have criticised the Association for Asian Studies for failing to inform the participants about the ban.

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