British Indian organisations and students’ groups are rallying around an Indian postgraduate law student at the London School of Economics (LSE), who flagged an anti-India and anti-Hindu smear campaign against him when he was suddenly disqualified from the university’s students’ union elections.
Karan Kataria, 22, and several of his friends and supporters have since taken to social media to highlight the injustice and are now campaigning for greater transparency from the LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) over the issue.
Kataria, from a middle-class farmer's family in the state of Haryana, said: “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.
“Despite receiving immense support from students of all nationalities, I was disqualified from the General Secretary election of the LSE Student Union. The allegations against me ranged from being homophobic, Islamophobic, queerphobic, and Hindu Nationalist.
“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 LSESU.”
He has since been “overwhelmed” by the support from diaspora organisations, including National Hindu Students’ Forum (NHSF) UK, Insight UK and Friends of India Society International (FISI) UK.
“Karan Kataria who was running for the position of LSESU General Secretary was the victim of a smear campaign, amongst other threats and accusations. What is LSESU going to do about Hinduphobic attacks on its campus,” questioned NHSF UK, which is now working with the LSE Law School students to build momentum around the issue and demand answers.
In a statement this week, the LSESU claimed that the reason for the disqualification last week was due to an alleged breach of the rule for candidates to keep a reasonable distance of around 2 metres from anyone who is casting their vote.
The statement adds: “As a matter of course LSESU always undertakes a review of how our elections have been delivered. We are confident that all decisions were followed according to due process and best practice.
“However, given the impact this experience has had on some of the candidates involved, we will be conducting an external review this time around and will endeavour to update the community accordingly.”