European academic on Malabar Muslims deported from airport

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Filippo Osella

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Thiruvananthapuram:  A European academic who studies Malabar Muslims for the past thirty years was stopped from attending a conference in Thiruvananthapuram and was deported from the airport without any valid reasons by the authorities.

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Renowned UK-based anthropologist Filippo Osella, who has worked on the Muslims of Malabar, was deported after their arrival at Thiruvananthapuram airport where he came for attending a conference on Kerala’s coastal communities.

Professor Osella is an internationally-known anthropologist and sociologist from the University of Sussex UK. He holds a one-year research visa for India that was to expire in mid-April but on his arrival at Thiruvananthapuram airport he was denied entry without any valid explanation, media reported.

According to media reports, the airport authorities did not reveal the reason for Osella’s deportation and simply said that the anthropologist was denied entry because of “the orders from higher officials.”

According to news reports, Professor Osella who arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram airport by an Emirates flight in the early morning on March 24 was escorted out of the aircraft to people waiting for him outside. He was taken to the immigration desks where he was told that he was not allowed to enter India.

The authorities did not give any reason but it appears the decision was preplanned because they had already made arrangements for his deportation via a Dubai flight.

Professor Osella has a long association with Kerala that began in the late 1980s. He has done several studies on Malabar Muslims. However, his studies were neither politically sensitive nor controversial and they focused only on the socio-anthropological angle.

This raises the question of why a renowned scholar on South Asian communities was stopped to attend the conference that too given the fact that Professor Osella, has not done any study on Kerala Muslims for the past decade and he has stayed away from the controversial topic such as Muslim of Kerala and political Islam.

One reason for his deportation is attributed to Prof Osella having a couple of old visas in his passport to enter Pakistan. This is natural for any South Asian scholar and his Pakistani visas earlier had never been a source of an obstacle for entering India.

Academic who is known for Professor Osella’s works are flummoxed as to why he was denied entry to attend the conference.  The answer to this could well be in wraps with the higher officials who think a European scholar could be a security threat to India. Well, this is “Post- Truth India- The Brand New Republic.”

It is indeed unfortunate that a top academic who has done extensive study in Kerala’s fishing villages has been denied permission to make a physical presence at the international conference in India.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist whose forthcoming book is; “Post- Truth India- The Brand New Republic.”  He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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