OCI status of actor Chetan Kumar cancelled weeks after arrest over Hindutva tweet

The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status of actor Chetan Kumar has been cancelled by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The actor has been critical of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and has been arrested twice for his tweets: recently for his tweets critical of Hindutva and once earlier for his comments on the judiciary.

“This is a vindictive act of the Union government to silence all activists and critics to create an environment of fear. I will fight this and not let it go. I have decided to file a writ petition in Karnataka High Court challenging the order soon,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu.

Chetan Kumar was born in the United States of America to Indian parents, and is a US citizen. But he holds OCI status, which provides for effective permanent residence to persons of Indian origin. While this doesn’t mean he is an Indian citizen, he need not avail of a visa every time he visits India and reports to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and the police. Mr. Kumar has been mostly based out of Bengaluru since the late 2000s, and has been starring in Kannada films and working as an activist taking up several causes.

He landed in a legal soup for the first time in 2021 when Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionaries lodged a complaint against his critical remarks on Brahminism. This led to multiple FIRs against him in Basavanagudi and Cubbon Park police stations. A VHP functionary had then written to FRRO asking them to cancel his OCI status. He again got into trouble, this time was arrested, over a tweet criticising a Karnataka High Court judge in February 2022 and again arrested in March 2023 over his tweets criticizing Hindutva.

Mr. Kumar was served a show-cause notice as to why his OCI status shouldn’t be cancelled in June 2022, to which he responded. The FRRO order cancelling his OCI status that Mr. Kumar received on Friday, a copy of which The Hindu has accessed states: “…Mr. Chetan A Kumar has been involved in many unlawful activities such as making derogatory, insulting and objectionable remarks against public institutions, promoting ill will, hatred and disharmony against a particular community. He violated COVID-19 guidelines issued by Government of Karnataka and posted derogatory remarks on Twitter about the Honorable judges of Karnataka High Court… The activities of Mr. Chetan A. Kumar are inimical to the interest of the general public”.

The order further directs Mr. Kumar to submit his OCI Card at the FRRO office in the next 15 days, failing which also it would be considered cancelled.

In his tweet posted on March 20, Mr. Kumar had stated that Hindutva was an ideology “built on lies” and cited the examples of Savarkar, Babri Masjid as well as Uri Gowda and Nanje Gowda.

He also tweeted that Hinduvta could be defeated by truth and that “truth is equality”.

Based on a complaint, Mr. Kumar was arrested by the Seshadripuram police on March 21 and charged under sections 295A and 505(2) of the IPC.