Overseas Citizenship of India cardholders will need special permission if they wish to take up any journalistic activities in the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs said on Friday. In the new rules for overseas Indians seeking visas, the home ministry has clubbed journalistic activities with those related to the missionaries and the Tablighi sect.

The OCI cardholder will also need permission from the Foreign Regional Registration Office to take up any research work, internship with foreign missions or if they need to visit areas designated as restricted or protected.

Under the new rules, OCI cardholders can now apply for multiple entry lifelong visa for visiting India for any purpose, apart from the activities mentioned above. But the OCI cardholders who are usually Indian residents will have to intimate the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer or the Registration Officer by email whenever there is a change in their permanent residential address and in their occupation.

The new rules give the OCI cardholders parity with Indian citizens in case of tariffs in domestic air travel and in entry fees for national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, national monuments, historical sites and museums in India. The OCI cardholders will be treated the same as non-resident Indians when it comes to inter-country adoption of Indian children and appearing for all-India competitive exams like NEET, JEE; purchase or sale of immovable properties other than agricultural land or farm house or plantation property and for pursuing professions like doctors, nurses, architect or chartered accountants.

The Tablighi Jamaat had faced immense criticism for allegedly disobeying government guidelines issued in the wake of the coronavirus crisis in March 2020. The congregation held by the Islamic missionary sect was blamed for thousands of coronavirus infections around the country in the initial weeks of the countrywide lockdown.

The event had renewed stigma against Muslims, triggering a wave of business boycotts and hate speech towards them. However, several courts have dismissed charges against the members and expressed concern about media coverage on the matter.

In September, the Bombay HC quashed first information reports against a few members of the Tablighi Jamaat, saying that there was no evidence to show they indulged in any act, which was likely to spread the infection. In another judgement in August, the High Court said that the foreigners were made “scapegoats” and that the action against them was an “indirect warning to Indian Muslims” after the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

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‘Unjust and unfair’: What three High Courts said about the arrests of Tablighi Jamaat members