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Sunday, July 14, 2024

I want an unbiased fact-finding committee to ensure justice is served: Karan Kataria on Hindu-phobia at LSE

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Just a few days back, Karan Kataria, Student Academic Representative, LSE Law School at the London School of Economics and Political Science, exposed the rampant Hindu-phobia and anti-India rhetoric on campus. Taking to social media, Kataria had stated that he was disqualified from running for the post of the General Secretary of the LSE Student Union or LSESU. Prior to which a smear-campaign was launched against him, labelling him as homophobic, queerphobic, Islamophobic, and a Hindu nationalist.

In order to delve deeper into the matter, GoaChronicle had a detailed conversation with Karan Kataria, in order to know how he was targeted, and what all he went through simply because he is a Hindu and Indian. We asked him a few questions, answering which he talked about his ordeal and his demand for justice.

You have talked about a ‘deliberately orchestrated smear-campaign’ which was launched against you at the LSE. Why and how were you targeted by those against you?

Everything was going well until a smear campaign was launched against me on the last voting day, March 24, 2023. Despite receiving amazing support from students of all nationalities, a few individuals with vested interests tried to pull me down by characterizing me in false and harmful ways.

Messages were mass forwarded on various WhatsApp groups of several LSE student union societies and departmental groups, which accused me of being Islamophobic, Homophobic, Hindu Nationalist, and anti-Semitic. These messages used all the terms and narratives that could be used to defame me and tarnish my reputation. It is extremely disappointing that some people resort to such negative tactics during a democratic process.

I want an unbiased fact-finding committee to ensure justice is served: Karan Kataria on Hindu-phobia at LSE -

Messages forwarded against Karan across LSE student groups

You were disqualified from the LSESU GS elections. Who was the individual or his/her group who started this hate-campaign against you and led to your disqualification?

I can’t even begin to express the disappointment I felt when several complaints were filed against me after the smear campaign launched against me. The complaints ranged from accusing me of having links with extremist groups to violating rules. However, I know for a fact that I never broke any rule in my knowledge and was following everything as a law-abiding student.

Despite my efforts to maintain my integrity, I was disqualified by the ruling of the returning officer. To my shock, she accused me of coercing seven students, which was completely untrue. However, within just 14 hours, she changed her ruling and told me that I only coerced two students. This inconsistency made me feel like the entire process was undemocratic and biased.

In my appeal against this undemocratic decision, the coercion charges were removed. However, the ground for my disqualification was that I was within two meters of a student voting. What’s worse is that I was not even provided with any evidence to support this claim. It felt like they were just looking for excuses to throw me out of the race, and they never even disclosed to me the votes I received.

It’s disheartening to see that under the facade of following rules, the authorities were determined to ensure that I didn’t win. Despite this setback, I’m determined to continue to fight for what I believe in and work towards making a positive change in the community.

Did you ever earlier witness the existence of a ‘cancel culture’ at the LSE campus before you were personally targeted?

The rise of cancel culture has become the new normal and it’s concerning to see how people are targeted for holding different opinions. Even famous alumni have shared their experiences of facing hardship when trying to establish the Hindu society at the LSE student union 30 years ago. It’s not just alumni, but even prominent figures like Sanjeev Sanyal have shared stories of personal hardships their family members had to go through due to cancel culture.

All these experiences highlight the extent to which cancel culture has become ingrained in our society. It’s disheartening to see how people are judged based on their beliefs, and if they don’t resonate with a specific ideology, they are not accepted. This goes against the very principles of democracy and the rule of law, which should uphold everyone’s right to express their views freely and without fear of repercussions.

It’s important to remember that diversity of thought and opinion is what makes a society thrive. People should be allowed to express their opinions without fear of being cancelled or ostracized. We must learn to respect each other’s differences and engage in open and constructive dialogue, even if we don’t agree with each other. This is the only way we can create a truly inclusive and tolerant society.

Why do you think the LSESU did not even give you chance to voice your stance amidst the hate-campaign?

I think LSESU can comment upon that, I tried all ways possible to request and raise my concern but did not receive a positive support or reply.

What will your further course of action be in raising your voice against the injustice you faced and the authoritarian actions of the LSE?

As a next step, I would like to request the formation of a fact-finding committee that can thoroughly investigate all available evidence related to the smear campaign launched against me. It’s important to hold the culprits accountable for their actions and ensure that justice is served.

The fact-finding committee should have the authority to investigate the matter without any bias and should be able to punish those responsible for the smear campaign. It’s crucial to take strong action against such individuals so that they don’t repeat their actions in the future.

I believe that this step is necessary to restore trust in the democratic process and to prevent such incidents from happening again. I urge the relevant authorities to take immediate action in this regard and ensure that justice is served.

Sonakshi Datta
Sonakshi Datta
Journalist who wants to cover the truth which others look the other way from.

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