Few days back three IITians, one from IIT Bombay and two from IIT Delhi, witnessed the ugly face of racism in Italy.
The students – currently interning with Inria Sophia Antipolis-Mediterranee in France – were waiting to take a connecting train from Ventimiglia.
The students, including 20-year old Akshit Goyal, were taken for a surprise when they were rounded up by 25 policemen for passport verification.
What happened next was a traumatising experience for these students who were said to have validated visas, passports and student I-cards of both the nations.
“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,” he added.
According to Goyal, the notion of being convicted for reasons not known at all was terrifying. He said the action taken by the police instilled fear, panic and anxiety in them.
He said that despite the security threats that all the nations across Europe are facing, it was unfair to treat an entire community like this and specially ingenuous students who were there for sole purpose of knowledge sharing.
The situation was defused after an Indian embassy personnel intervened.
The trio, along with some other Africans and Pakistanis, was flown to Bari, Italy, and there they managed to contact their families and Indian colleagues followed by around 10 hours of no contact whatsoever.
The students have alleged that this is a case of ‘blatant racial profiling’. They have condemned the act and written a detailed letter to the Indian embassy there.
Responding to the incident, Italian consul general Ugo Ciarlatani said, “The only thing I can tell you is that Italians are not racists at all as you can see with the huge numbers of Syrians coming to Italy everyday.”