MUMBAI: Four days ago, what was meant to be a weekend getaway for three IIT students turned into a nightmare when the Italian police detained Akshit Goyal, Deepak Bhatt and Uday Kusupati for 10 hours, without any reason.
“After a day full of atrocities, we were in a state of mental trauma. All the other people held were Pakistanis and Africans, and so it clearly seemed to us an act of racial profiling,” said Akshit Goyal, a second year computer science student at the Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi (IIT-D).
Goyal, with his friends Deepak Bhatt from IIT-D and Uday Kusupati from IIT-Bombay, is on a two-month internship in France at the Inria Sophia Antipolis, a European research body.
“There were around 20-25 police officers who were checking passports, so we readily showed our passports and were let off. But immediately another police officer sought our passports and asked us to stay back with a group of 10 people,” said Goyal.
“We had a medical checkup done. Our finger prints and photographs were taken and despite repeated requests to put us through someone who can speak in English, we were only told ‘no problem’, while things just got worse,” he said.
The trio was driven to Genoa city, three hours away. To their surprise, they were taken directly to the airport and after thorough physical frisking, they were put on a plane to Bari.
Once in Bari, while the other passengers were being questioned for lack of documents, the students got a chance to get in touch with their families back in India.
In an hour, police officials returned the passports, apologised for the ‘mistake’ and allowed them to continue their trip.
Though unwilling to term the incident as racist, Goyal said it was “an attack on a person’s dignity and blatant disrespect towards self-identity”.