India chided for revoking overseas citizenship of British Modi critic

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at a global investors' meet in Dharmsala, India, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. The two day global meet will end Friday. (AP)
Updated 08 November 2019

India chided for revoking overseas citizenship of British Modi critic

NEW DELHI: Press freedom watchdogs rebuked the Indian government on Friday for revoking the overseas citizenship of British writer Aatish Taseer, calling it retribution for criticism of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In May, weeks before Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) overwhelmingly won election to return to power, Taseer wrote a scathing piece in TIME Magazine that appeared on its cover with a headline: “India’s Divider in Chief.”
A spokeswoman for India’s Home Ministry said late on Thursday that Taseer was ineligible for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status — which allows foreigners of Indian ancestry to visit, work and live in the country indefinitely — because he concealed that his late father was Pakistani.
India does not grant OCIs to individuals who are or whose ancestors were citizens of arch enemy Pakistan or Bangladesh. It also does not allow dual citizenship.
Taseer — born to Indian columnist Tavleen Singh and Salman Taseer, a Pakistani politician assassinated in 2011 — said the government had “weaponized” a technicality to punish him.
“I feel that anybody in my position has been sent a chilling message,” he told Reuters on Friday, saying he now fears he may be unable to visit his mother and grandmother in India.
“What they have done is make an example of me. They are really showing that they are willing to go after writers and journalists,” added Taseer, 38, from the United States where he lives.
Taseer said his mother had always been his sole legal guardian and he did not have contact with his father until the age of 21. He added that he was unsure what nationality he had listed for his father, who was also British, on his application but stressed he had never sought to hide his Pakistani links and wrote about his father extensively in a book a decade ago.
“I’ve not been given an opportunity to explain this,” he said.
The Home Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia-Pacific Desk at Reporters Without Borders, said it was revenge for criticizing Modi, whom Taseer wrote had helped create “an atmosphere of poisonous religious nationalism” in India and failed to reform its economy.
“The revocation of Aatish Taseer’s Indian overseas citizenship is just another example of how the Indian government tends to intimidate every journalist who does not toe the line of the BJP’s narrative,” he told Reuters.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged the Indian government to withdraw any directive to strip Taseer’s overseas citizenship.


Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

Updated 25 min 17 sec ago

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

  • The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s tourists
  • Apsara authority plans to end the elephant rides by 2020
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old.”
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the temples.
“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.