In a major step that would have far-reaching results, the Modi government has released a new notification to regulate the “rights” enjoyed by Overseas Citizens of India (OCI). As per the notification released on 4th March by the Union Home Ministry, “the OCI cardholder shall be required to obtain special permission or a Special Permit
(i) to undertake research;
(ii) to undertake any Missionary or Tabligh or Mountaineering or Journalistic activities;
(iv) to visit any place which falls within the Protected or Restricted or prohibited areas as.”
Because India does not award “dual citizenship” unlike many countries in the world, the Indian government introduced the OCI facility in the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 to facilitate the people of Indian origin who hold overseas citizenship. However, in the last few years, it has been seen that many people with OCI abuse these facilities to carry out illegal activities in India as well as paint a gloomy picture of the country to overseas audiences.
Some of the prominent people who are living in India as OCI cardholders include Akshay Kumar, Gita Gopinath, Salman Rushdie, Alia Bhatt, Siddharth Varadarajan and others. Aatish Taseer, the columnist who painted Prime Minister Modi as the ‘divider in chief’ in a Times magazine article published just before the 2019 general election, was also an OCI cardholder, but the Home Ministry denied to renew his card a few months ago because he lied about the details of his father.
In the last few years, it has been seen that many OCI cardholders are trying to influence the Indian voters, and are carrying out political and social activities for which only Indian citizens are privileged. For example, people like Siddharth Varadarajan – who holds American citizenship – often try to influence the political choices of the people of India by advocating for leaders of a particular ideology through media outlets.
Moreover, Aatish Taseer, a writer by profession, earned his living by presenting a certain type of picture of India to the international audience and spoke about the authority just because he was an OCI cardholder.
Moreover, there are OCIs who stay in India to carry out religious conversion or have other religious agendas. For example, Tablighis played a major role in the initial spread of the Coronavirus in cities like Delhi. India’s early fight against the coronavirus pandemic was derailed by the ominous Tablighi Jamaat Markaz event that was held at Nizamuddin in Delhi, mid-March. The large majority of the cases have been directly or indirectly influenced by the hoodlums of the Jamaat.
On March 31 last year, Modi government blacklisted 800 Indonesian Islamic preachers of Tablighi Jamaat for violating the visa rules. A foreigner who is blacklisted cannot get a visa to come to India. Now such foreign nationals have been banned from performing Tablighi work altogether.
“Foreign nationals granted any type of visa and OCI cardholders shall not be permitted to engage themselves in Tabligh work. There will be no restriction in visiting religious places and attending normal religious activities like attending religious discourses. However, preaching religious ideologies, making speeches in religious places, distribution of audio or visual display/pamphlets pertaining to religious ideologies, spreading conversion etc. will not be allowed,” reads the notification.
The Tablighi Jamaat congregation was responsible for a large number of COVID-19 cases in the entire South-east Asia region. Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Singapore were some of the countries where Tablighis became a major reason behind the early spread of Coronavirus.
Now the Union government has come up with a permanent solution against Tablighis and journalists who carry out propaganda that harms the interest of the nation, and the conversion mafia. The newly notified rules will keep such OCI cardholders in check and would safeguard the nation’s interests.