New York-based author Aatish Taseer has been declared ineligible for Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card as he had "concealed" the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin, the government said on Thursday night November 7. Aatish Taseer is the son of senior journalist Tavleen Singh, an Indian, and late Salman Taseer, a Pakistani businessman and politician. Salman Taseer was assassinated in the year 2011 while he was serving as the Governor of Pakistan's Punjab province.
The Union Home Ministry spokesperson tweeted, "Mr. Aatish Ali Taseer, while submitting his PIO application, concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin." The spokesperson said in another tweet, "Mr. Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply/objections regarding his PIO/OCI cards, but he failed to dispute the notice."
"Thus, 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," it added. An OCI card allows a foreign citizen of Indian origin to live and work in India for an indefinite duration of time.
'I'm an Indian, Why is the government sending me into exile'
The 38-year-old writer reacted to this decision with a tweet stating, "This is untrue. Here is the Consul General's acknowledgment of my reply. I was given not the full 21 days, but rather 24 hours to reply. I've heard nothing from the ministry since."
He went on to write a piece for the Time magazine addressing this issue he said that he had 21 days to revert to the government's claims but it was only the day 20 when he received this notice. The author alleges that he was being punished for being critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his article titled, 'India's Divider in Chief' for Time Magazine on May 20 before the Lok Sabha elections.
In the piece, he talks about how he had always been Indian even though he was born in Britain and raised in India by an Indian mother and how his citizenship was never questioned before. Quoting from his article in which he stated, "I had expected a reprisal, but not a severing. While the government did not initially reveal their motivations behind this action, they have now stated their reasons for removing my OCI: "concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin." But it is hard not to feel, given the timing, that I was being punished for what I had written."
Opposition slams centre's move
With Taseer's citizenship status being revoked, the opposition has slammed the centre for this decision and accused the government of targeting the author. Several leaders like Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor criticised the Modi government on social media.
Congress leader, Jairam Ramesh tweeted, "I have very often been attacked by Tavleen Singh in her columns. But I condemn Home Ministry revoking her son Aatish Taseer's OCI. It was, however only to be expected. All critical voices are either snooped on, harassed or muzzled."
Senior Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor also tweeted, "It is painful to see an official spokesperson of our government making a false claim that is so easily disproved. It is even more painful than in our democracy such things happen. Is our Govt so weak that it feels threatened by a journalist?"