We all know that it takes months of hard work, determination for us to get an internship or a short study course abroad. Three students Akshit, Deepak and Ravi were interning in INRIA, France and they decided to go on a short trip to Italy on the weekend starting from 28th May. On 28th Morning, at the train station in Ventimiglia (Italy) the first sight these students saw outside were 20-25 policemen who were there, checking the documents etc of certain passengers who strangely belonged to some specific race. These students did have all the valid documents with them yet they were taken to the commissionerate with all their possessions being taken. Combine all this with the fact that these students were not able to talk to anyone in the police force there due to the fact that they did not understand or pretended not to understand english. Now we need to realise that due to the Syrian refugee crisis, strict measures have been implemented at every country that is taking in refugees and therefore proper checking must be done but we see that these students did co-operate with all this checking on the Ventimiglia station yet they were taken to a different place without being told the reason for any of this. In a facebook post Akshit writes that all the replies that they got during this were “No Problem”,”Wait”,”After”. Three regular IIT students, out on a trip to relax and explore everything that the country of Leonardo da Vinci offers, rounded up and taken all over the country despite having the valid documents. Is this the kind of free, equal world that the western civilisation prides itself on?
We get to know that all the people who were rounded up selectively by the Italian policemen were citizens of India, Pakistan or the African countries and yet when press reaches the Italian consul, officials say that “Italians are not racists”. Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior. Don’t we see here a deep rooted problem, don’t we see here the fact that there exists a prejudice in the minds of some people, don’t we see people of Indian and African race being discriminated here? And the problem is even bigger than racism in this case, Italy being a developed, “First World” country which promotes rights like equality aggressively on a global scale doesn’t even follow the procedure as stated by their own law as follows:-
The right to obtain information about the accusations against you;
The right to inform consular officials and family members about your arrest
The harrowing ordeal didn’t end at the commissionerate, they were then taken to Bari, a city further away inside the Italian Mainland where on arrival at the airport, Akshit, one of the students from IIT Delhi almost lost his luggage since the officials insisted that there were no more bags present from the aeroplane in which he arrived. Since all of Akshit’s documents were in his luggage this experience was psychologically very disturbing. Here again, the problems only kept increasing where these Police officials took away the cellphone of one such individual who tried to contact his family about the situation he was in. Thus these students had to contact their families/professors secretly so that they would in turn be able to help them. One thing that we need to remind this free world is that detaining three students unlawfully, even though they furnished genuine documents and not allowing them access to their baggage so that they could contact their research workplace in France or family in India is a blatant violation of human rights. These students were people coming from families who were educated, who were informed of their rights and had proper access to internet etc making it easier for them to contact the indian embassy. It was only after the intervention of the embassy that the police officials admitted that yes there had been a misunderstanding and that now these students are free to go. Even then, not much assistance was provided to these students as now they were sent back to Rome, by paying for the tickets themselves.
Such situations keep happening all the time, people who come from the ‘developing’ world in such european countries keep facing such issues and still complete the work they originally came to do. The psychological effects of such ordeals are long lasting and do make a deep impact on the psyche of the individual under duress. In such times, the best possible option is always to contact the nearest embassy/consulate first to inform them of whatever is happening. With the present government, we have seen that the MEA(Ministry of External Affairs) has been highly attentive at all times, we have also seen instances of the Minister herself getting to know of some situations on the social media and then helping the affected people as soon as possible so social media is another avenue which helps getting your voice out in the open. Also, in the case of students/employees it is very important for them to tell their respective professor/employer in such case since they are themselves locals and know the law of the land and will come up to help you. The most important thing in such cases is to know your rights in the land and try not to bow down to treatment wrongly meted out to you.Also, one can always contact the MEA back at home themselves or through their family since the government is always there to help. This incident has made the IIT Bombay students raise their voice and give suggestions so that such incidents don’t happen again to the brightest minds of the country.
A student from IIT-B’s Computer Science department said, “There are several students from IITs who go abroad for internships. These are very important in terms of their careers. To facilitate this, institutes can have a dialogue with Indian embassies in the countries where the students are going. This will make students’ international trips convenient.”
The Dean of Students’ Affairs at IIT-B, Soumya Mukherjee said, “The internships are optional. However, the institute takes the responsibility and creates awareness among students about things to remember, precautions to take.
These awareness programmes can be intensified, especially before internship season.” He further said, “This case is one of its kind, an unfortunate incident. But it is great that the Ministry of External Affairs immediately took cognisance of the situation and intervened to help students.”
The relations between India and Italy aren’t exactly one of the most cordial ones with Italy raising strong objections against India on the Global forums in the infamous Italian Marines case. Also, Italy is also the member of the so called “Coffee Club” opposing the entry of countries like India, Japan, Germany etc to the UNSC but even then, both the countries need to deal with such situations with maturity wherein no prejudice,no discrimination, no racism is present sending the message of humanity. External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Italian authorities have admitted it was a "mistake" on their part to detain the three as their documents were in order. It was after all this that the Indian Mission in Italy made arrangements for these students to go back to France where they were doing their internship.
Some important contacts to have once you’re abroad :-
Smt. Vani S. Rao, IFS
Office Room No.906, Akbar Bhawan Ministry of External Affairs,
Phone : +91-11-24676210/24197936
Fax : +91-11- 26882431
Shri Nehjamang Simte
Office Room No.925, Akbar Bhawan Ministry of External Affairs,
Phone : +91-11- 24197950
Shri Krishan Kumar
Phone : +91-11-24197935 / 24672175