Three IITians, one from IIT Bombay and two from IIT Delhi, were waiting to take a connecting train from Ventimiglia, Italy, when they were rounded up by the local security for passport verification on Monday. Though they had their identity papers, the three were flown 1,100 km down south to Bari with several other people of varied nationalities, many of whom were not carrying their passports.
Students from the campuses have condemned the Italian authorities' act, calling it a case of "blatant racial profiling".
Uday Kusupati, from IIT Bombay, and Akshit Goyal and Deepak Bhatt from IIT Delhi, all three studying computer science, were interning with Inria Sophia Antipolis-Mediterranee, a research centre, since early May, and had travelled to the port city of Genoa for the weekend, reported The Times of India.
According to the report, the trio, now in Rome, have submitted a detailed letter about their experience to the Indian embassy there. They will be flown down to Nice, France, on Wednesday morning. Italian consul general Ugo Ciarlatani said, "The only thing I can tell you is that Italians are not racists at all as you can see with the huge numbers of Syrians coming to Italy everyday."
The panic started when the local Italian security clamped down on people at the Ventimiglia station. "While the security guards could not speak English, these three students tried to show their passports but were taken away," said Shreerang Javadekar, editor of IIT Bombay's Insight magazine.
The trio, along with some other Africans and Pakistanis, was flown to Bari, Italy. "There they managed to contact their families and Indian colleagues followed by around 10 hours of no contact whatsoever. The authorities and their professor guides were contacted by the families and at 10:30 pm IST, they were informed that a 'passport verification' was under way. Personnel from the Indian embassy finally intervened and defused the situation," added Javadekar.
"No reason was given for being flown to Bari. They said their IDs would be checked only in Bari. Uday contacted me and our family and their intern colleagues in France. The colleagues and professors helped out by contacting the embassy," a family member told TOI.