New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has served a notice to author and journalist Aatish Taseer and is considering revoking his Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, ThePrint has learnt.
New York-based Taseer has been in the crosshairs of the Modi government since he wrote an article in Time magazine which called PM Modi ‘Divider-in-Chief’ and criticised his first term as prime minister. The article was the cover story of Time’s international editions dated 20 May 2019.
As a result, sources said, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is deliberating over whether to revoke his OCI status over some technical issues. While Taseer has been served a notice, the two sides are in discussions to resolve the matter, they said.
OCI card-holders are entitled to a multi-purpose, multiple-entry, life-long visa that allows them to visit India at any time, for any length of time and for any purpose. They are exempt from police reporting for any length of stay in the country. They also have all the rights that Non-Resident Indians have in the economic, financial and education fields, as well as the right to acquire agricultural or plantation properties.
Taseer’s mother and senior journalist Tavleen Singh is Indian while his father Salman Taseer was Pakistani. Salman Taseer was a Pakistani businessman and liberal politician who was assassinated in 2011. His mother was British and he had a British passport too as Pakistan allows its citizens to have dual citizenship.
Aatish Taseer was born in London and raised in India and has lived mostly in Britain and India. The Modi government, sources said, is raising fresh questions on Salman Taseer’s nationality in connection with Aatish’s OCI status.
Salman Taseer, who was born in Shimla before Partition, was the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province when he was gunned down in Islamabad by his own security guard for his vocal opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. He was regarded as a stalwart in the Pakistan People’s Party and considered to be close to former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Aatish Taseer is an acclaimed writer and author and his books include Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands (2007), The Temple-goers (2010) and The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges (2018).
ThePrint emailed Taseer seeking his comment but he is yet to respond.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, in a media briefing Thursday, that he was not aware of this specific case. However, he said, if an individual is “no longer eligible and if it fits into a certain criterion of that cancellation of an OCI card then the OCI card will be cancelled”.
Kumar added that there are certain conditions to be fulfilled and certain documents that have to be submitted. “If you have submitted those documents, then you are eligible for an OCI card.”
Under fire from BJP members & supporters
Since the Time article was published, Taseer has come under attack from members of the BJP as well as the party’s supporters.
On Wednesday, Tavleen Singh defended her son on Twitter when his war of words with a BJP supporter turned personal.
“Didn’t want to get into this but you forced me to. There is no camel urine or cow urine easily available in DELHI. This is where Aatish grew up. As for the ‘young lady’ she is middle aged and as viscous (sic) as trolls come on Twitter,” Singh wrote.
Didn’t want to get into this but you forced me to. There is no camel urine or cow urine easily available in DELHI. This is where Aatish grew up. As for the ‘young lady’ she is middle aged and as viscous as trolls come on Twitter. https://t.co/2WhXIhQdeW
— Tavleen Singh (@tavleen_singh) November 5, 2019
Vijay Chauthaiwale, head of the BJP’s foreign affairs department, responded to Singh’s tweet, saying: “Mother is always protective about her son @AatishTaseer. I can understand inhibition of @tavleen_singh to admit that her son is nothing less than rabid Islamist.”
— Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale (@vijai63) November 6, 2019
This is not the first time BJP members have targeted Taseer.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had called him a “Pakistani national” and said he was promoting that country’s propaganda.
Another BJP spokesperson, Shahnawaz Hussain, had also said the Time article was written by a “Pakistani national”, and that it doesn’t matter if he goes to America, he will still have anger against Modi bubbling inside him.
Several reports have appeared since to debunk Taseer’s “Pakistani” nationality, and reiterate that he was born in London and raised in India.
Taseer himself has gone on record to say he is not a Pakistani national, and called it “fake news”.
Days after the Time article appeared, a doctor-turned-politician named Ashwin Johar, a central committee member of the Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party, had started an online petition “to protest” against it.
This report has been updated with a response from the Ministry of External Affairs.