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Indian Student Who Alleged 'Hate Campaign' at LSE Stands Last in Union Elections

"There were several other Indians in the election for different posts. None of them were targeted...," he alleged.

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"I was called a fascist, an Islamophobe, a transphobe... all because of a few posts I wrote praising some of the Indian government's policies."

Satyam Surana, a Master's student at the prestigious London School of Economics (LSE), claims that a "well-planned hate campaign" was initiated against him after he decided to run for the post of general secretary in the LSE Student Union elections.

Surana (23), an alumnus of Pune's ILS Law College and advocate at the Bombay High Court, came to London to pursue a Master's in law at the LSE in September last year.

When the student union election dates were announced in February 2024, he registered as a candidate in the polls and campaigned on issues pertaining to infrastructural development, accessibility, grievance redressal, and subsidised meals on campus. However, things started to take a turn for the worse a few days into his campaign, he claims.

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'Posters Torn, Defaced'

"I filed nominations for the post of general secretary and began campaigning on 11 March. My friends and I started going around the entire campus – putting up posters, distributing pamphlets etc. Around 13 March, we realised that some posters were going missing, and others were getting ripped off," Surana told The Quint.

Initially, he said he didn't read too much into it – thinking that it was a normal part of campaigning. However, when some of his posters allegedly started getting defaced, he felt it was a serious issue.

"On 15 March, I saw a few posters of mine in which a red cross had been drawn across on my face and content like 'Anybody but Satyam' written on it," the student said.

"There were several other Indians in the election for different posts. None of them were targeted...," he alleged.

A 'defaced' poster of Satyam Surana on the LSE campus. 

(Photo: Accessed by The Quint)

Surana and his team then took up the matter with the LSE security, asking them to check CCTV footage to find out who the responsible persons were. However, he claimed they did not achieve much headway.

"The LSE security said that they were working to ascertain who had defaced the posters and would get back to me. They are still working on it apparently," he said.

He then reached out to the LSE Ethics Committee who sent him the ethics guidelines for the election but did not take any action. "I was passed from one department to the other with my issues," he said.

When The Quint reached out to the LSE, the university said that they did not have anything to do with the election. "The LSE Student Union is independent of the LSE with its own procedures around elections and disciplinary action," they said in an email.

Meanwhile, the LSESU has not yet responded to The Quint's queries. This article will be updated as and when they respond.

'Satyam Surana Tried to Manipulate Voters'

The 'defacing' of Surana's posters wasn't the end of the alleged "hate campaign" against him.

On 17 March, he claimed, messages started circulating on WhatsApp groups, saying that "Satyam Surana is an ardent supporter of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)" and labelling him a "fascist", "Islamophobe", and "transphobe". Surana said that none of the claims were true, arguing that he had been part of legal teams that defended transgender people in court.

He also shared screenshots of some personal messages and social media posts with The Quint in which voters stated their reasons for not voting for him.

"There were several other Indians in the election for different posts. None of them were targeted...," he alleged.
In another such message, an LSE student claims that Surana tried to "manipulate" voters by saying that it was a "hate crime" for Indian students on campus to not vote for him. Surana, however, denied the allegations.
"There were several other Indians in the election for different posts. None of them were targeted...," he alleged.
"There were several other Indians in the election for different posts. None of them were targeted...," he alleged.

"My tweets were being circulated in which I had appreciated the current establishment on some points as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A photo of mine with (Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister) Devendra Fadnavis was circulated as well, and claims were made that I had contacts in the BJP," he said.

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When asked whether he was a formal member of the BJP or any other right-wing organisation, Surana claimed that he was not. He also said that he wasn't aware of who was writing the posts – because everyone who forward the messages claimed not to have written them.

"There were several other Indians in the election for different posts. None of them were targeted in this way. Only my social media posts were highlighted," he said.

The election result, published on the LSE website on 25 March, showed that Surana got the least number of votes (319) among the three candidates in the race for general secretary. Tito Molokwu won the election with over 1,300 votes and was followed by Advait Kuravi, who got 926 votes.

"All the goodwill which we had been able to build with voters was severely hampered," Surana claimed.

Meanwhile, The Quint has reached out to both Molokwu and Kuravi. Their responses are awaited.

This incident comes a year after another Indian student, named Karan Kataria, was disqualified from the LSE's student union elections. While Kataria alleged that he had been discriminated against by the LSESU due to his "Indian" and "Hindu identity", the committee that disqualified him said that they had received complaints that Kataria was "coercing" voters. You can read The Quint's report on the issue here.

Meanwhile, Surana said that he did not know Kataria personally, but had met him once during a meetup between seniors and juniors.

Surana was in the news in October last year as well after he picked up the Indian flag from the ground during an attack on the Indian Embassy in London by alleged Khalistan sympathisers.

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