"I had expected a reprisal, but not a severing," was British-born writer Aatish Taseer's reaction after he learnt that the Government of India has revoked his Overseas Citizen status, months after he authored an article largely critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ahead of India's General Elections.
On Thursday night, Taseer was informed that his Overseas Citizen of India status had been cancelled and that he should turn his OCI card in to the Consulate General of India in New York in 15 days.
Taseer is the son of Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer. However, he was raised in India by his single mother, who was not married to Salman.
Penning his reaction for Time, also the publication that carried the original article at the heart of the controversy, Taseer clarifies the question of his citizenship. He claims that his legal guardian and only parent is Tavleen and he had not been in contact with his father until he turned 21.
"Not only was I not a Pakistani, but my relationship with my father – who was Governor of Punjab in Pakistan when he was assassinated in 2011 – had been complicated. Born out of wedlock, I was not in contact with my father until I was twenty-one. I was born in Britain and have British citizenship, but since the age of two I had lived and grown up in India, with my Indian mother, who is a well-known journalist."
Taseer questioned the timing of the review of his citizenship, invoking his article published just before the Lok Sabha election.
"In May 2019, at the height of India’s general election, I had written an article for TIME that was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The piece, one of two on the cover of TIME’s International Edition, examined his record in India and the atmosphere of Hindu nationalism. Something about the timing, the headline (“India’s Divider in Chief”) and the image of Modi sent his supporters into a fury."
Taseer also alleged that he was not given the full grace period of 21 days between the date when the home ministry notifies an individual of impending action and the time it actually revokes OCI rights.
"This is untrue. Here is the Consul General's acknowledgement 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 said on Twitter.
According to the current laws, Overseas Citizenship of India is an immigration status that allows foreigners of Indian origin to live and work in India indefinitely. This status is not available to applicants whose parents, grandparents or great-grandparents were Pakistani. As per the Citizenship Act, if the registration as an OCI cardholder was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact, the registration as OCI cardholder shall be cancelled. The person will also be blacklisted thereby banning his or her future entry into India.
A home ministry official speaking to PTI said that Taseer becomes ineligible to hold an OCI card, as per the Citizenship Act, 1955, as the OCI card is not issued to any person whose parents or grandparents are Pakistanis and he hid this fact.
The spokesperson also denied that the government had been considering revoking Taseer's OCI card after he wrote an article in the TIME magazine, which was critical of the prime minister, saying the news was a "complete misrepresentation and is devoid of any facts".
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Nov 08, 2019 14:14:13 IST