Who Is Nitasha Kaul? London Professor Allegedly Detained At Bengaluru Airport

Nitasha Kaul, an Indian-origin professor based in the United Kingdom, found herself at the center of a contentious immigration incident. Kaul was reportedly denied entry into India and subsequently sent back to London from the Bengaluru airport.

Oshi Saxena
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Image Credits - @NitashaKaul

Academic and writer Nitasha Kaul, a distinguished academic from the University of Westminster, has found herself at the centre of a controversy, claiming that she was denied entry to India for the 'The Constitution and Unity of India’ conference despite having the necessary documents and an invitation from the Karnataka government. This incident has sparked a heated debate, with Kaul attributing the denial to her anti-RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) stance, a right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization, raising questions about the boundaries of academic discourse, democratic values, and the role of the state in shaping intellectual conversations.


The Allegations and Denials

Nitasha Kaul, a professor of politics, international relations, and critical interdisciplinary studies at the University of Westminster, claimed that her entry denial was rooted in her outspoken opinions on "democratic and constitutional values." Her ordeal involved hours of harassment at the Bangalore airport, where immigration officials, citing orders from Delhi, refused her entry without providing a clear explanation.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Kaul expressed her dismay, stating, "I was given no reason by immigration except 'we cannot do anything, orders from Delhi."  Despite having official invitations from the Karnataka government and no prior communication of entry restrictions, she found herself caught in a bureaucratic web.

Despite possessing valid documents, including a UK passport and an OCI, she expressed her dismay at the lack of clarity on the legal basis for her denial and the absence of any pre-notification from Delhi.


The ordeal extended beyond the denial, as Kaul detailed a distressing sequence of events. Having spent 12 hours on a flight from London to Bangalore, she faced several more hours of uncertainty at immigration. Subsequently, she endured 24 hours in a holding cell with restricted movement, limited access to basic necessities like food and water, and a notable absence of amenities such as a pillow and blanket. Kaul's detention included 12 additional hours on a return flight to London. Despite being a globally respected academic, she found herself confined and subjected to inconveniences that contradicted the democratic values she champions.

“I took the next British Airways flight back to London, after 24 hours. I have a metal plate in my arm, and upper limb and other health issues, but, systemically, there was no kindness or understanding. Only individual people in their individual capacity commiserated, helped, and empathized,” Professor Kaul conveyed in her response to ThePrint.

Kaul's detention included 12 additional hours on a return flight to London. Despite being a globally respected academic, she found herself confined and subjected to inconveniences that contradicted the democratic values she champions. 

Academic Freedom and Right-wing Ecosystem


Professor Kaul's claims extend beyond this specific incident, as she highlighted a pattern of being denied permission to speak in India since 2014, despite official invitations. Sharing past instances of cancelled talks and withdrawals, she alluded to a broader issue of suppressing academic voices critical of the right-wing ecosystem.

In a series of tweets, she expressed her concern about the threat to democracy posed by stifling academic voices and criticized the alleged banning of academics, journalists, activists, and writers from India. 

She also questioned the rationale behind preventing a professor from participating in a conference on the Constitution, especially when invited by a state government. In her own words, "How can the world’s largest democracy be threatened by my pen & the word? How is it ok for centre to not allow a professor to be at a conference on Constitution where she was invited by state govt?"


Professor Kaul suggested a political motivation behind her denial, referencing her past criticism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a far-right Hindu nationalist paramilitary organization. She claimed that officials informally referred to her historical criticism of the RSS, connecting it to her denial of entry. Moreover, she revealed a history of threats from right-wing Hindutva trolls, alleging death threats, rape threats, and intimidation tactics.

Expressing concern over the potential implications, Professor Kaul warned that unless the issue is addressed, she might join the ranks of those throughout history who have faced the arbitrary exercise of power. This includes Tibetan exiles, Ukrainian exiles, and others subjected to what she describes as 'brute unreasoning power.'

These allegations suggest a troubling pattern of ideological bias and political censorship, wherein individuals are targeted and penalized for expressing dissenting views or engaging in critical discourse

Kaul clarified that her criticism is not aimed at India as a whole but rather at authoritarianism, aligning herself with pro-democracy values. She highlighted her extensive history of travelling to India without any issues and emphasized that the denial came from the central government, contrasting with the invitation she received from a state government.

Reactions and Controversies

While Kaul received support from prominent academic figures condemning the alleged harassment, there were contrasting opinions. Girish Bharadwaj, a Karnataka VHP leader, criticized the state government for inviting what he referred to as "anti-nationals." The incident has ignited a broader conversation about the boundaries between academic freedom, government authority, and nationalist sentiments.

The controversy surrounding Nitasha Kaul's denial of entry raises concerns about the space for dissenting voices in a democratic society, prompting reflection on the balance between national security concerns and the fundamental principles of free speech and academic expression.

Who is Nitasha Kaul?

Nitasha Kaul's illustrious academic career spans diverse disciplines, including economics, philosophy, and creative writing. A graduate of Delhi University with a BA honours in economics, Kaul went on to obtain a master's degree in economics with a specialization in public policy, followed by a joint Ph.D. in economics and philosophy from the University of Hull, UK. Her academic journey has taken her across continents, from her role as an assistant professor of economics at the Bristol Business School to her tenure as an associate professor in creative writing at the Royal Thimphu College in Bhutan.

Beyond academia, Nitasha Kaul is a prolific author, novelist, and poet, with a notable body of work exploring themes of identity, difference, and resistance. Her scholarly monograph, 'Imagining Economics Otherwise: Encounters with Identity/Difference', published by Routledge in 2007, reflects her interdisciplinary approach to complex socio-political issues. Additionally, Kaul has co-edited several volumes, including 'Women and Kashmir' and 'Can You Hear Kashmiri Women Speak? Narratives of Resistance and Resilience', which offer critical insights into gender, conflict, and human rights in the context of Kashmir.

The detention of Professor Nitasha Kaul at the Bengaluru International Airport has ignited a discourse on the boundaries of academic freedom and the challenges facing scholars, activists, and intellectuals in an increasingly polarized world. While we await further clarification on the incident, questions linger about the preservation of democratic values and the role of dissent in the world's largest democracy.

Karnataka government Nitasha Kaul Indian origin professor University of Westminster The Constitution and Unity of India