NEW DELHI: New Delhi’s decision to revoke the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card of New York-based writer Aatish Taseer has outraged the Indian intelligentsia, with several condemning the move.
It follows the Indian Home Ministry’s decision on Thursday to abrogate Taseer’s OCI card, saying he had concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin.
Taseer, a journalist and writer, is the son of late Pakistani politician Salman Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh.
The 40-year-old was born in the UK and was raised by his mother in India for most of his life. India does not allow dual citizenship. A person of Indian origin is given the OCI card which carries a permanent visa.
In May this year, he wrote a piece in Time magazine, where he referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “Divider in Chief.” It is believed that the revocation of his OCI card was linked to the publication.
“Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply/objections regarding his PIO/OCI cards, but he failed to dispute the notice. Thus, Mr.Aatish Ali Taseer becomes ineligible to hold an OCI card, as per the Citizenship Act, 1955. He has clearly not complied with very basic requirements and hidden information,” a ministry spokesperson said.
The writer, however, disputes the claim, suggesting that he replied to the home ministry’s letter within 24 hours and never hid any information from the government about his parents.
“I had expected a reprisal, but not a severing,” Taseer said after the revocation of his OCI card. “It is hard not to feel, given the timing, that I was being punished for what I had written.”
Singh said that the decision of the government was “not just wrong but evil.”
“What has happened to Aatish is not just wrong but evil, just as what is happening to the desperately poor people who are running around trying to prove their Indian citizenship is evil and wrong,” she wrote in the English-language daily, the Indian Express.
Hartosh Singh Bal, the political editor of Caravan magazine, said: “No doubt the decision of the government is related to the article that Taseer wrote.”
Writer Shashi Tharoor, the senior leader of the opposition Congress party, said: “It is painful that in our democracy such things happen. Is our government so weak that it feels threatened by a journalist?”
The Indian historian Ram Guha called the move “a petty and vindictive act of a petty and vindictive Government,” whilst the Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy said it was “outrageous and dangerous.”
Modi’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) however, sought to justify the decision. “The government went by facts. Can you deny that Taseer does not have a Pakistani parent?” asked Pappu Nirala, a spokesperson for the BJP’s youth wing.