Actor’s Canadian citizenship leaves India’s ruling BJP red faced | Article

The irony:

The Hindi film actor Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia, popularly known as Akshay Kumar, and known for his proximity to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), confessed that he is no longer an Indian citizen.

His admission that he holds a Canadian passport comes soon after he conducted a “non-political” interview of prime minister Narendra Modi while general elections were underway. In the interview, questions like whether Modi likes mangoes and how he eats them drew a lot of mirth and derision from social media users.

Kumar is also known for projecting himself as a uber nationalist. One of his recent films, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, was seen as a vehicle to promote a much-touted scheme of the BJP government.

His earlier films are seen as vehicles of a muscular government ready to take on enemies of the state through assassinations and kidnappings. His films like KesariRustom, Goldand Airlift, among others, focus on themes relating to nationalism.

Meanwhile the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has stoked nationalism while using the national security plank for its electoral campaign.

Kumar’s citizenship issue has become a big deal because BJP supporters frequently subject people from India’s religious minorities to “loyalty tests.” For instance, Muslims and other government critics are frequently asked to “go to Pakistan.” Kumar’s colleagues in Bollywood, Amir Khan and Naseeruddin Shah, had to face such questions when they stated that they were not feeling safe under the current government. Kumar had snubbed Khan for his comments.

As social media users raised questions over the citizenship of Bollywood’s poster boy for nationalism, the situation got worse as Mumbai went to the polls when Kumar’s wife, Twinkle Khanna, turned up at the polling booth on April 29 but he was not seen voting.

Moreover, the actor chose to ignore and walk away when he was questioned by journalists about not voting in the Lok Sabha elections in Mumbai, the capital of western Indian state Maharashtra. Kumar responded to the question with “Chaliye, chaliye (let’s go, let’s go)” as he walked away. Later, he would state that he is a Canadian citizen. Trolls had a field day on social media.

It was out and out ironical as the actor was recently tagged by PM Modi in a tweet urging him to encourage people to vote. Kumar did so. He tweeted saying: “The true hallmark of a democracy lies in people’s participation in the electoral process. Voting has to be a superhit . . . between our nation and its voters.”

The row over his already controversial citizenship issue started after his recent interview with PM Modi. The prime minister, known for rarely giving interviews to journalists, spoke to the actor in an interview described as “informal and non-political.”

Kumar issued a statement on May 3 on Twitter acknowledging his Canadian citizenship while underlining his Indian patriotism: “I really don’t understand the unwarranted interest and negativity about my citizenship. I have never hidden or denied that I hold a Canadian passport. It is also equally true that I have not visited Canada in the last seven years. I work in India, and pay all my taxes in India. While all these years, I have never needed to prove my love for India to anyone, I find it disappointing that my citizenship issue is constantly dragged into needless controversy, a matter that is personal, legal, non-political, and of no consequence to others.”

Kumar proudly declared that he pays his taxes in India. In fact that is not something he does by choice. It is mandated by law.

India has a residency-based taxation system, not a citizenship-based one. Indian citizens who are persons of Indian origin (PIO), overseas citizens of India (OCI) or foreign citizens and who are residents of India for more than 182 days have to pay tax and file income tax return in India. Furthermore, when someone is a resident in India for income tax purposes, income earned anywhere in the world is taxable in India.

Kumar, who had been at the top position for several years among the highest taxpayers in Bollywood, had paid Rs. 295 million in 2017.

Bhatia’s citizenship controversy is not new. In 2017, in an interview with Times Now, Kumar claimed he was an “honorary citizen” of Canada: “About the Canadian thing. I am an honorary citizen. I have been given an honorary thing. It is a thing that people should be proud of. I have an honorary doctorate as well.”

However, according to a fact-check done by Alt News, The website of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lists the people who have been given honorary Canadian citizenship and it names six individuals including Pakistani Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafsai. Kumar’s name does not appear in the list. The report also says that an honorary citizen cannot hold a Canadian passport, as Kumar does.

After Kumar’s statement, actor Anupam Kher came out in his support on Twitter. Kher is known as a vocal supporter of the BJP and his wife, also an actor, Kirron Kher is a BJP lawmaker.

Source: Actor’s Canadian citizenship leaves India’s ruling BJP red faced | Article

Protesters in India claim victory as #citizenship bill stalls

Apparent end:

Protesters in northeast India claimed victory on Wednesday after a bill that the government says will help Hindus in neighboring countries settle in India lapsed before it could be ratified by parliament.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill is aimed at helping Hindus and members of other non-Muslim minority communities in neighboring Muslim countries move to India.

But critics say the legislation is as an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) burnish its Hindu-nationalist credentials ahead of a general election, that must be held by May.

The bill had incited exceptional opposition in remote, ethnically diverse northeastern states where for years residents have complained that migrants from Bangladesh are a burden on society.

For days, protesters have taken to the streets, bringing chaos to several cities in the region. Authorities have responded with curfews and blocks on broadcasters in an attempt to quell the unrest.

The lower house of parliament passed the bill last month but it was not ratified by the upper house before the end of its last session before the election, on Wednesday.

Activists in the northeast welcomed parliament’s failure to push the legislation through.

“This is a moral victory for the people of the northeast with the BJP forced to bow down to the voices of struggle,” Samujjal Bhattacharya, a leader of the All Assam Students’ Union, one of the protesting groups, told Reuters.

Members of the Assam state organization had threatened to “shed blood” to block the bill.

Protests over recent days have also rocked the small state of Manipur, where authorities imposed an indefinite curfew and suspended mobile internet services for five days late on Tuesday, following violent protests.

Police said people were defying the curfew on Wednesday.

Protests also erupted in Mizoram state, where some activists have given voice to old separatist aspirations.

Source: Protesters in India claim victory as citizenship bill stalls

Is India waging a ‘war’ on Islamic names?

Never like what appears to be politically-driven name changes:

What’s in a name? For India’s cities and villages, seemingly plenty.

More than 100 of them, including the most prominent, have been renamed since Independence – Bombay to Mumbai, Calcutta to Kolkata, Madras to Chennai.

Names mangled by British rulers have been corrected, and colonial names rejected.

Identity pride, cultural assertion, linguistic nationalism and plain whimsy have all led to renaming in the past. And now, to appease its Hindu nationalist base, Narendra Modi’s ruling BJP appears to have embarked on a new renaming frenzy.

It began in July with the renaming of Mughalsarai, an iconic British-era railway station in the BJP-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh, after its ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya.

Last month, the city of Allahabad in the same state was renamed Prayagraj,apparently to restore the city’s ancient identity as a major Hindu pilgrimage centre. (The city is located at the confluence of three holy rivers.) More significantly, BJP leaders were peeved by the fact that the city’s 435-year-old name was given by a Muslim ruler.

As if that was not enough, the local government, led by a controversial Hindu religious leader, has changed the name of Faizabad district to Ayodhya, best known as the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram

It was in Ayodhya that hardline Hindu mobs razed an ancient mosque in 1992, sparking one of the worst episodes of religious violence in which nearly 2,000 people were killed across the country.

Now BJP leaders want to give more Hindu-friendly names to the city of Agra in Uttar Pradesh, home to the iconic Taj Mahal, and to Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat. Earlier this year, BJP-ruled Rajasthan changed the “Islamic-sounding names” of three villages.

The new names heap glory on what the BJP calls India’s “glorious” Hindu past, and pour scorn on its Islamic heritage. With general elections barely a year ago, the renaming is seen by critics of Mr Modi as a blow to India’s fabled syncretism – the merging of different faiths and cultures.

Gaganpreet Singh, who teaches at Delhi University, says the politics of renaming in India is often “rooted in the nationalisation of heritage”.

To be fair, in 2014, Mr Modi’s government renamed a road called after Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in central Delhi, instead honouring former president APJ Abdul Kalam, who also pioneered the country’s military missile programme.

“This was the BJP replacing the name of a Muslim villain with a Muslim patriot,” remarked Aatish Taseer, author and columnist.

It is difficult to see why India’s majority Hindus should be feeling besieged by a lack of representation, or why the BJP sees them as a persecuted majority. More than 7,000 of India’s 677,000 villages are named, for example, after Ram and Krishna, two popular deities. Mughal king Akbar, by comparison, had barely 234 villages in his name.

The renaming of cities and places goes on elsewhere in the world for a variety of reasons, some of them similar to India’s.

But critics say erasing Islamic names is another way to disempower India’s Muslims and deny them a stake in the country’s history.

They compare it to what has happened in neighbouring Pakistan, where most roads and spaces have been renamed to be associated with Muslim heroes or personalities. History, as historian Irfan Habib says, is always the “first victim of politics”.

With crucial general elections barely five months away, the BJP’s name-changing moves can be seen as an attempt to woo voters. A home ministry official told parliament in March that it had received 27 proposals from different states requesting a change of names for various villages, towns and railway stations. Most of the requests had came from the BJP-ruled states of Rajasthan and Haryana.

But there’s no evidence that renaming places draws more votes for the party pushing the purge. There have been no recent agitations for name changes, and no great relief among people that they are happening.

“In the absence of broader improvements in actual welfare, name-changing also gives a sense of things changing,” sociologist Sanjay Srivastava told me.

“I am not sure who cares. It doesn’t appear to be a vote-winning issue. Except that it consolidates the BJP’s image as ‘decisive’ across all spheres. It is really the politics of spectacle.”

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46191239