Chetan Kumar, an actor and activist who holds US citizenship, has alleged that the Indian government cancelled his Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card and asked him to return it within 15 days of receiving a letter from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) dated March 28.
According to Chetan, “I will approach the Karnataka High Court in this regard and see what can be done. The letter claimed that I violated Covid-19 guidelines and criticised a judge, but in no case have I been convicted. The system does not want people to question injustice and inequality. It is not the first time, and it will not be the last time. My fight for a better society will continue.”
Chetan received a show-cause notice in June 2022 from the FRRO, which alleged that he had made derogatory comments against judges and engaged in “anti-national” activities.
Chetan responded by citing his involvement in social work and film-making in India for many years, as well as his marriage to an Indian citizen. However, on April 14, the Ministry of Home Affairs cancelled his OCI, stating that his response to the notice was unsatisfactory, he claimed. Moreover, the government has not yet clarified its position on the cancellation of Chetan Kumar’s OCI card.
“The government’s actions are aimed at creating an atmosphere of fear and silencing activists. People in power do not want to empower the suppressed. They want to maintain the status quo. Activists like me who try to make a difference are often threatened with cases and such issues. It is not surprising to me,” said Chetan.
In a previous incident, on March 21, Chetan was sent to judicial custody for 14 days over a tweet. Chetan was arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments with a tweet, which was his second arrest over a Twitter post. He was arrested by the Sheshadripuram police in Bengaluru following a complaint against him by Shivakumar, a member of a right-wing outfit. The complaint stated that Chetan’s tweet hurt the sentiments of Hindus.
Chetan, who is also a Dalit and a tribal activist, was produced before a district court which sent him to judicial custody for 14 days. The tweet in question allegedly stated that “Hindutva can only be defeated by truth.”
The actor tweeted, “Hindutva is built on LIES. Savarkar: Indian ‘nation’ began when Rama defeated Ravana & returned to Ayodhya —> a lie. 1992: Babri Masjid is ‘birthplace of Rama’ —> a lie. 2023: Urigowda-Nanjegowda are ‘killers’ of Tipu—> a lie. Hindutva can be defeated by TRUTH—> truth is EQUALITY”
In February 2022, Chetan was arrested for alleged comments against a Karnataka High Court judge who was hearing the hijab case. The police took suo motu cognisance of his comments and arrested him, but he was later released on bail.
Finally, in October 2022, Chetan was booked for stating that ‘Bhoota Kola’, which was depicted in the film Kantara, was not part of Hindu customs.
Chetan Kumar, who was born and raised in the United States, has been actively raising his voice for several issues in India. These issues include the rights of farmers, workers, Dalits, and Adivasis. Chetan has also been associated with various movements aimed at rehabilitating endosulfan victims in 2013, securing homes for tribals who were evicted from Kodagu in 2016, and advocating for a separate religious status for Lingayats more recently.