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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Foreign protestors take to India, government responds with threats

A Norwegian tourist on Friday said authorities had ordered her to leave India after taking part in protests against a new citizenship law, becoming the second European to be ejected over the demonstrations. Governments worldwide are issuing warnings to their citizens intending to travel to India as violent protests plague the country.

A Norwegian tourist on Friday said authorities had ordered her to leave India after taking part in protests against a new citizenship law, becoming the second European to be ejected over the demonstrations.

Janne-Mette Johansson, 71, told AFP that police gave her “verbal assurances” that she could take part in peaceful demonstrations against the law that critics say discriminates against India’s Muslims.

“Yesterday (Thursday), Indian immigration officials came to my hotel for questioning and I was mentally tortured. Today, they again showed up at my hotel asking me to leave the country or they will take a legal action and deport me,” she said.

The woman, who had posted photos from the demonstration in the southern state of Kerala in India on Facebook, added that she would leave India for Dubai on Friday evening and then fly to Sweden.

European visitors to India require visas and the Press Trust of India news agency quoted an official from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office as saying that Johansson “violated visa norms”.

Earlier this week a German studying physics in the southern Indian city of Chennai was also asked to leave after taking part in a protest and comparing the law to anti-Jewish Nazi legislation, PTI reported.

Read more: India’s protests: why now?

Photos on social media purportedly of the student, named as Jakob Lindenthal, showed him carrying a placard saying “1933-1945 We have been there”.

“After the Nazi era, many people claimed not to have known anything about genocides or atrocities or stated that they were only passive,” Lindenthal told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

“Therefore I see it as a duty to learn from these lessons and not only watch when things happen that one believes to be the stepping stones to a possibly very dangerous development.”

India’s authorities have not commented on his case. The protests, which have raged for two weeks and left at least 27 people dead, were set to continue on Friday with mobile internet snapped in places and riot police deployed.

The government says that the law easing citizenship rules for religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan excludes Muslims because they face no persecution in those countries.

Photos on social media purportedly of the student, named as Jakob Lindenthal, showed him carrying a placard saying “1933-1945 We have been there”

But coupled with a mooted citizens register, it has stoked fears including in Washington and the UN rights office about the marginalisation of Muslims who make up 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people.

Impact on tourism

India has long cashed on being a tourist hub owing to its cultural and religious diversity but the industry is expected to take a hit given recent events.

Several countries have issued serious travel advisories for India, owing to the mounting tension in the country due to the nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019.

Read more: Thousands protest in rival demonstrations over new India law

The United States (US), Canada, the United Kingdom (UK), Saudi Arabia, Russia, Australia and Israel have warned their citizens who are currently in India or planning a visit to India to exercise caution and refrain from visiting places that are controlled by protestors.

The US Embassy in New Delhi has rolled out precautionary measures including avoiding areas with demonstrations and civil disturbances, keeping a low profile, monitoring local media for updates and reviewing personal security plans among others.

The UK government updated its travel advisory for India to warn its citizens against travel to the states in the northeast.

Likewise, Canada has asked to avoid non-essential travel to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland due to conflict.

An advisory issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has asked Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in India overall.

GVS News Desk with additions from news agencies.