regular-article-logo Saturday, 30 September 2023

My visa to stay in India cancelled: Chetan Kumar

Actor and Hindutva critic expected to challenge order

K.M. Rakesh Bangalore Published 16.04.23, 04:25 AM
Chetan Kumar

Chetan Kumar

Kannada actor and activist Chetan Kumar "Ahimsa", who has been a trenchant critic of the Hindutva ideology and has been arrested twice, has said the Union home ministry has cancelled his Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card.

“Union home ministry cancelled my visa to stay in India yesterday on Ambedkar Jayanti,” Kumar posted on Facebook on Saturday.


He is expected to challenge the notice in Karnataka High Court. Kumar did not answer calls from this newspaper.

Born and brought up in the US as an American citizen, Kumar is a graduate of Yale. He later moved to his native Karnataka and taught in a village school in Mysore before rising to stardom with a few Kannada films. He has been fighting for the rights of the oppressed.

Like many persons of Indian origin, Kumar is in India under the OCI scheme that was introduced by amending the Citizenship Act in August 2005.

While India does not allow dual citizenship, an OCI cardholder is essentially an Indian-origin individual on a passport from another country.

According to the OCI brochure, cardholders are granted a lifelong visa to visit India and are exempt from having to register with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) for any length of stay in India. But they do not have the right to vote, hold constitutional positions or secure government jobs.

Sources close to Kumar said he had been ordered to return the card within 15 days of receiving the letter, which he got on Friday.

Kumar had received a showcause notice from the FRRO in June 2022 that sought an explanation for his comments against a high court judge. In his reply, he had said he had been a resident of India for many years and was married to an Indian.

A vocal advocate of Dalit and minority rights, Kumar has been arrested and sent to judicial custody twice in about a year. He was first arrested in February 2022 over a tweet on certain comments made by a Karnataka High Court judge, Justice Krishna Dixit, who was hearing a batch of petitions against the classroom ban on the hijab in the state.

The actor had referred to his own tweet dated June 26, 2020, where he had questioned the judge for granting pre-arrest bail to a rape accused while making an observation that had sparked a controversy.

He was arrested again on March 21 this year over a tweet in which he argued that “Hindutva is built on lies”.

In October last year, the Hindu Jagarana Vedike had lodged a police complaint against Kumar for claiming that a particular form of worship prevalent in coastal Karnataka and north Kerala was not part of the Hindu religion.

With the hit Kannada film Kantara prompting many even in Karnataka to revisit the Bhoota Kola, a form of spirit worship, Kumar had tweeted that it pre-dated the Vedic-Hindu religion and hence was not part of Hinduism.

The comment had angered several Hindutva activists including Sri Rama Sena chief Pramod Muthalik, who slammed him for allegedly being a communist and an atheist.

Kumar had participated in the celebrations of the birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar in Karnataka on Friday.

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