A 74-year-old Norwegian woman was called in for questioning by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, or FRRO, in the city of Kochi in Kerala for participating in protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act on Monday, Onmanorama reported on Thursday. This came days after a German exchange student at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras was sent back to his country for participating in the protests.
The woman, identified as Janne-Mette Johansson, was in Kochi on a tourist visa. “We will inquire whether she took part in the protest seriously,” said FRRO official and Indian Police Service officer Anoop Krishnan. “Prima facie, it appears that she participated in the event casually. We can take action only after getting reports from the local police.” Krishnan added that the necessary formalities would take a few days.
The foreigners registration office, which operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs, keeps track of the registration, movement and stay of foreigners in India. Johansson has routinely visited India since 2014 and entered the country in October this time round. Her visa is valid till March, 2020, reported The Indian Express.
The Citizenship Amendment Act has triggered protests across India after being approved by Parliament on December 11. The legislation provides citizenship to people from six religious minority groups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, provided they have lived in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014. The law has attracted widespread criticism as it excludes Muslims.
Johansson was summoned after officials came across her Facebook post from Monday. “This afternoon I participated in a protest march; people’s long march,” she wrote. “It started out from Gandhi Circle Ernakulam, and we marched with slogans and flags to Vasco da Gama Square Cochin, while the protesters were singing and chanting and with their fists up.”
She said the protest march was well-organised and that refreshments were given to the demonstrators. “No riots, just people determined..lifting up their voices, saying what has to be said. The police helpful during this protest march,” she added.
Anoop Krishnan said Johansson’s case should not be compared to that of Jakob Lindenthal, the German exchange student. The Norwegian claimed to have obtained prior permission from local police before attending the gathering, he added.
As Lindenthal prepared to depart earlier this week, an official at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office told The Indian Express that the German had violated visa rules by attending the protest, and the institution was bound to report the matter to authorities. “This isn’t the same as deportation,” the official added. “His visa may be cancelled soon.”
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Lindenthal said the nationwide demonstrations against the citizenship law showed that political freedom and rule of law need the support of millions of people. He also thanked his supporters and well-wishers for “all the huge solidarity...legal advice and shelter”.