Kochi: Norwegian national Janne-Mette Johansson, who participated in the protest march against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Kochi on December 23, has been asked to leave the country immediately.
The Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO), which regulates the registration, movement and stay of foreign nationals in India, has confirmed the development to Onmanorama.
Anoop Krishnan, IPS, Foreigners Regional Registration Officer in Kochi, said Johansson has been asked to leave immediately. "It is not deportation. We asked her to leave at the earliest because she violated the visa rules by participating in the protest march. She herself published the protest march photographs on Facebook," he said.
Anoop said the immigration department is not mulling legal action against Johansson at the moment. "Those are future things."
The ultimatum to leave India has upset 71-year-old Johansson. She said the directive is nothing but blackmailing. "The immigration officials warned me that they will take legal action if I do not leave the country by 6pm today (Friday). I asked them to give me the order in writing, but they declined. It is nothing but blackmailing," she told Onmanorama.
"I joined the protest after getting permission from the local police station. I would not have participated in the protest had I known I was breaking the Indian law," she said.
Thousands of people had gathered in Kochi for the march – titled People's Long March – held on Monday.
Johansson will now take the flight to Dubai soon. "From there, I will fly to Sweden," she said.
Johansson's tourist visa will expire in March, 2020. She reached India in October, 2019 and visited Mumbai and Lucknow before arriving in Kerala a week ago.
The immigration officials had questioned Johansson on Thursday.
Anoop told Onmanorama on Thursday that his team was checking whether Johansson was involved in the protest seriously. "We would inquire whether she took part in the protest seriously. Prima facie, it appears that she participated in the event casually," Anoop said.
A few days ago, India deported Jakob Lindenthal, a German student at the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, for participating in the anti-Citizenship Act protests.
India's visa rules prohibit foreign nationals from participating in protests.
FRRO officials began the inquiry after they noticed Johansson's Facebook post on December 23, where she described her 'long march' experience.
Johansson, however, refrained from making explicit political statements in her Facebook post. She just described that the march started from Gandhi circle and ended at Vasco da Gama Square in Kochi. "...protesters were singing and chanting with their fists up," she wrote.
She noted that refreshments were served at the march and appreciated the organisers and police. "During these 12km, there were two places we got water with salt and sugar. We also had orange juice." (sic)