On February 22, 2020, Indian authorities ordered Kamil Siedcynski, a Polish student of comparative literature at Jadavpur University (JU), to leave the country, for allegedly participating in protests against citizenship-related legislation.
Siedcynski, who is pursuing a masters degree at JU, had attended at least one rally over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), a controversial law enacted on December 12, 2019, which expedites citizenship for several religious minorities but does not include Muslims. Critics of the CAA argue that it is discriminatory and violates the secular nature of India’s constitution. Since December, students at universities across the country have held protests over the CAA and related policies, including a national citizens register. Many of the student-led protests have been met with intense police force and arrests.
There are limited details regarding Siedcynski’s alleged participation in the protest activities. At one anti-CAA rally held in Kolkata on December 19, Siedcynski reportedly observed and took photos of participants, and was interviewed by at least one journalist. Siedcynski told New18 that he “refused” to raise slogans or hold posters during that protest, and was driven there by “sheer curiosity.”
On February 22, Siedcynski received a notice from India’s Foreigner Regional Registration Office (FRRO) which ordered him to leave the country within fifteen days. Sources close to the student told reporters that the FRRO’s notice stated that Siedcynski had participated in activities considered inappropriate for a foreign national residing in India on a student visa.
On March 5, following an appeal by Siedcynski, the High Court of Kolkata stayed the leave notice until March 18, at which point it will make a decision.
As of March 10, 2020, Siecynski is one of three foreign university students in India that have been ordered deported in connection with the anti-CAA protests. The two others include Afsara Anika Meem, a Bangladeshi undergraduate student at Visva Bharati University (see report), and Jakob Lindenthal, a German exchange student at the Indian Institute of Technology (see report).
Scholars at Risk is concerned by a deportation order issued to a student in retaliation for the alleged nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such conduct. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, travel restrictions intended to punish expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.