The Indian government has asked a 74-year-old Norwegian woman, who had participated in protests against the amendments to the Citizenship Act on Monday, to leave the country immediately, Onmanorama reported on Friday.
The woman, identified as Janne-Mette Johansson, was in Kochi on a tourist visa. The Foreigners Regional Registration Office, or FRRO, had called her in for questioning on Thursday. Johansson has routinely visited India since 2014 and entered the country in October this time round. Her visa is valid till March, 2020.
“It is not deportation,” said FRRO official and Indian Police Service officer Anoop Krishnan. “We asked her to leave at the earliest because she violated the visa rules by participating in the protest march. She herself published the protest march photographs on Facebook.” Krishnan added that the immigration department is not considering any legal action against her at the moment.
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 wrote on Facebook on Friday that an officer from the Bureau of Immigration showed up at her hotel and told her to leave India immediately or face legal action. “I asked for an explanation and also something in writing,” she wrote. “I was told I would not get anything in writing. The officer from the Bureau is not leaving me before he can see that I have a flight ticket.” She wrote that she was on her way to the airport. She will first fly to Dubai and then to Sweden, she added.
The tourist told Onmanorama that the government’s order was “nothing but blackmailing”.
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 had written. “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 had 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 had added. She had claimed to have obtained prior permission from local police before attending the gathering.
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. As Jakob Lindenthal prepared to depart earlier this week, an official at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office said he 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 had said. “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”.
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.