Dejected twenty two year old Indian student Karan Kataria, who has become the latest casualty of widespread cancel culture, has said he feels suicidal after the prestigious London School of Economics sought to “counsel him” after disqualifying him last week from contesting student polls over charges that his temperament was too Islamophobic in the campus.
Speaking to the New Indian from the UK, Kataria expressed disgust and anguish while objecting to expressions like psychological counselling being used by the UK.
“You see, they first disqualified me. Then they had a gall to tell me i need conselling…There’s a limit to be subjected to such humiliation on the campus,” he said.
Kataria has also accused the administration of deriding him with distasteful commentary as queerphobic and Isamophobic as he insisted he would take this battle to the UK court if LSE SU doesn’t lift the ban on him.
“I was falsely accused of being associated with a Hindu extremist group, but no evidence was found to support their claim. Then they accused me of ‘coercing’ students to vote for me, which is a criminal offense in the UK. If they have evidence to support this, they should try me under UK law and, if found guilty, I should be held accountable. But when they failed to produce any evidence, they disqualified me based on the fact that I was within two meters of the voting site. I demand that they review the CCTV footage to reveal the truth,” he stated.
On March 10, 22-year-old Karan Kataria bravely stepped forward to file his candidacy for the highly-coveted position of General Secretary in the Student Union of London School of Economics. However, what should have been an exciting opportunity quickly turned into a nightmarish ordeal for the native from Gurgaon. “It was supposed to be a momentous occasion for me, but it turned out to be the most distressing experience of my life,” Kataria recounted.
He received overwhelming support from fellow students across nationalities, especially from Asian and African students, and other developing countries, who resonated with his humble farming background. Kataria was the only brown student contesting for the position. But as the election drew nearer, things began to take a dark turn.
On March 24, the day of the election, Kataria was subjected to a barrage of hate messages targeting his religion and nationality. “I received a number of hateful messages on social media and through various student union societies, all of which highlighted my nationality and religion,” Kataria recounted. “I was described as a Hindu nationalist, fascist, queerphobic, and Islamophobic. A malicious smear campaign was launched against me across social media platforms and all student union societies.”
He promptly notified the LSESU and the Returning Officer about the hateful messages and urged them to publicly denounce the attacks. “I begged the LSESU and the Returning Officer to publicly denounce the vicious attacks against me. Such undemocratic tactics have no place in an educational institution. The election should focus on my manifesto and policy vision, not on my national, religious, or racial identity,” he emphasized.
Neither LSE nor the Student Union have released a public statement denouncing the hate messages and smear campaign against him.
One of the reasons Kataria was cornered during the election process was that he has been actively involved in promoting Indian culture and organizing events to raise awareness of India’s traditions and political struggles against colonialism and cross-border terrorism on various LSE Student Union events through the Indian Policy Forum.
As the convenor of India Policy Forum, Kataria has run into trouble for organizing celebrations on India’s Republic Day at LSE. Despite the fact that every nationality and ethnicity celebrates their culture in various student union societies, Kataria has been targeted for his efforts. “With limited resources, we decided to do something on our Republic Day,” he explained.
IPF organized a successful event that featured a panel discussion with esteemed guests such as Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Anirudhha Rajput, Amish Tripathi, and Professor Pablo Ibáñez Colomo. However, some individuals attempted to discredit the event by spreading unfounded negativity, falsely claiming that no female intellectuals were invited and that it was a gathering of upper-caste men. Kataria pointed out that one of the speakers, Anirudh Rajput, is actually a scheduled tribe member from Maharashtra, and that these allegations were baseless and lacked any credible source or research.
Despite the risk of facing prejudice and being ostracized, Kataria fearlessly presented the Indian perspective at controversial seminars organized by Student Union societies. At one such event hosted by the Pakistan society, a UK-based Kashmiri radical, who was charged under terror law for anti-national activity in India, was invited as the keynote speaker. Kataria challenged him with a question, standing up for the truth. “I was stating only facts at the event. Indian students were ridiculed and compelled to leave because their viewpoint on the situation in Kashmir was not given due consideration,” he asserted.
Kataria fearlessly spoke out against the anti-Modi BBC documentary that was shown by students at LSE, and he firmly believed in the institution’s ability to accommodate diverse opinions and free speech. However, his unwavering stance cost him his candidacy and subjected him to bullying and psychological distress.
Rashmit Samant, the first female Indian President-elect of Oxford University Student’s Union and was forced to resign from her post came out in support of Kataria. “When I was attacked, harassed, bullied and humiliated at the University of Oxford for my Hindu Dharma, origins and background, I prayed that it should never happen to another Hindu on Campus. Karan’s story and experience from @LSEnews is absolutely heartbreaking!,” she tweeted.
“It brings back the simmering issue of deep rooted Hinduphobia not just in the UK but on campuses and in academia across the world, which under the guise of liberty, curtail the rights of historically persecuted communities like the Hindus,” she added.
Kataria is fully aware of the potential consequences that his actions may have on his academic career, considering how difficult it was for him to get admitted to LSE as a first-generation graduate from a farming background. “LSE is primarily a place of learning, not politics, but at the same time, diverse opinions and free speech are essential components of a complete education,” he says. Kataria is determined to continue speaking out against the one-sided narrative promoted by the current ecosystem.