Outrage in India after writer’s overseas citizenship revoked

Aatish Taseer. (Social Media)
Updated 11 November 2019

Outrage in India after writer’s overseas citizenship revoked

  • 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”

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.

FASTFACT

Aatish Taseer, a journalist and writer, is the son of late Pakistani politician Salman Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh.

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.


Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

Updated 12 min 4 sec ago

Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

  • The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries
  • The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries

NEW DELHI: A divisive citizenship bill has been signed into law in India, a move that comes amid widespread protests in the country’s northeast that could force the cancelation of a visit by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs in Assam state torching buildings and attacking railway stations. Protesters say the law would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.
The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill late on Thursday, signing it into law, an official statement said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has planned to host Abe at a meeting in Assam next week as part of a campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India’s diversity.
Japan’s Jiji Press reported on Friday that Abe is considering canceling his trip. India’s foreign ministry said it was not in a position to comment on the visit which was originally planned for Dec 15-17.
A movement against immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh has raged in Assam for decades. Protesters say granting Indian nationality to more people will further strain the resources of the tea growing state and lead to the marginalization of indigenous communities.
Japan has stepped up infrastructure development work in Assam in recent years which the two sides were expected to highlight during the summit. Abe had also planned to visit a memorial in the nearby state of Manipur where Japanese soldiers were killed during World War Two.
Critics of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government say the bigger problem with the new law is that it is the first time India is using religion as a criterion for granting citizenship and that it excludes Muslims from its ambit.
The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries before 2015.
The Indian Union Muslim League party has petitioned the Supreme Court saying the law was in conflict with the secular principles of India’s constitution that guaranteed equality to all without any regard to religion. No date has yet been set for the hearings.
The party said the law is “prima facie communal” and questioned the exclusion of minorities such as Rohingya Muslims who were just as persecuted as other faiths listed in the law.