Watching so many of his countrymen and women go out on the streets to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed by the Indian government, Joshy Kalluveettil from Kerala’s Chalakudy filed a Right To Information application with the local municipality. It was a simple plea – could he know what documents the Prime Minister of India could use to prove that he is a citizen of the country.
Though the CAA does not concern Indian citizens, the protests started over fears that in combination with the proposed nation-wide National Register of Citizens (NRC), several Indians without proper documents would lose their citizenship, and that Muslims especially would be targeted.
Joshy thought that an answer to his RTI would help abate a lot of confusion and anxiety among the people. “Everyone seemed worried about the documents they’d need to prove their citizenship. People were asking questions like would they need to leave the country, would their relatives abroad not be able to come back to the country, what would happen if those born before 1971 could not produce their birth certificates. So many doubts and concerns. I thought we’d all get some clarity if we found out what documents the PM could use, because then we could be ready with the same documents,” Joshy tells TNM.
His good intentions have, however, not gone down well with all. There were calls which took on a mild threatening note, he says. “Not death threats or anything. Just on the lines of ‘if you don’t know what you need, we will teach you’ or else ‘you are insulting our Prime Minister and our party’. There was some strong language. I told them, ‘I am connecting to the PM’s office to clear my doubts and if I don’t get the answers from them, I will contact you’,” Joshy says.
He reckons the calls are from young people in the neighbourhood, and he does not want to land them in trouble by going to the police about it.
The RTI application was filed a week ago, on January 13. He has shared with TNM his application and the response he received from the municipality office last Saturday. The response says that Joshy’s request has been transferred to the Central Public Information Officer at the PM’s office.
It was not Joshy’s intention to make his application public. It appears to have leaked from the municipal office where he filed the application, complete with his name. “It got spread the very next day and I have been getting so many calls and messages. Of course there were many calls offering support and many others appreciating my action. Especially Muslim brothers living in India and the Gulf countries who have been very anxious about how the CAA would affect them.”
He didn’t do it just for a certain community, Joshy says. “People of all religions in India would be affected, as long as there is no clarity on the law," he points out.
Joshy, who works in the jewellery field, is also a worker of the Aam Aadmi Party.