Karan Kataria is a Master’s student enrolled at the Law School in London School of Economics (LSE). He finds himself in the eye of a storm this week after he was abruptly disqualified from the LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) election, a disqualification which is now undergoing an external review process.
Here, the 22-year-old Indian student shares his story with iGlobal – a fight against discrimination and a feared anti-Hindu bias at one of London’s leading universities.
I come from a middle-class farmer's family in the state of Haryana, India. As a first-generation university-level graduate in my family, my journey from India to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has been anything but privileged. When I started my postgraduate studies at LSE, I sincerely hoped to strive for and further fulfil my passion for student welfare. But my dreams were shattered when a deliberately orchestrated smear campaign was launched against me, solely because of my Indian and Hindu identity.
At the Law School, one of LSE's most extensive and diverse , I was honoured to have been elected as the Academic Representative for my cohort. I was also elected as a Delegate to the National Union for Students (NUS) in a short period. Keeping in my mind my extensive engagement in student welfare-related at LSE, my peers motivated me to run for the General Secretary of the LSE Student Union (LSESU) election. Unfortunately, some individuals could not bear to see an Indian-Hindu leading the LSESU and resorted to vilify my character and very identity in what was clearly in line with the alarming cancel culture which is uprooting our social communities.
Despite receiving immense support from students of all nationalities, I was disqualified from the General Secretary election of the LSE Students’ Union. The allegations against me ranged from being homophobic, Islamophobic, queerphobic, and Hindu Nationalist. Following it, multiple complaints were lodged against me. A plethora of false accusations were made to discredit my image and character when to the complete contrary, I have always advocated for positive change and social harmony.
Instead of identifying and punishing the wrongdoers who initiated this hateful campaign, the LSESU instead cancelled my candidature undemocratically without providing any proof or evidence of the allegations against me. This decision is a gross violation of the principles of natural justice. The LSESU conveniently disqualified me without hearing my side of the story or revealing the vote I received.
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Moreover, on the last polling day, Indian students were bullied and targeted for their national and Hindu religious identities. The students raised this issue, but the LSESU brushed it aside by not acting against the bullies. The silent treatment of the complaints raised by the students who were subject to such unacceptable behaviour also seems to justify the accusation of Hinduphobia against the LSE SU. As a student of the social sciences, I strongly believe in upholding democratic values and respecting the personal opinions and ideologies of others. However, the LSESU's actions show an authoritarian, non-democratic, xenophobic, and biased mindset that cannot digest social harmony, diversity, and an engaging Indian-Hindu student.
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I urge the LSE leadership to support me and ensure justice prevails in the interest of all students. Let us uphold the values of Dr B.R. Ambedkar's alma mater and ensure that all voices are heard on this big, diverse campus.