Friday, 03 July, 2020

Modi critic stripped of citizenship status in step denounced as ‘vindictive’

Home Ministry Modi critic stripped of citizenship status in step denounced as ‘vindictive’
Deanna Wagner | 09 November, 2019, 22:08

Clarifying the reason for revoking New York-based journalist Aatish Ali Taseer's Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card, the Home Ministry stated that Taseer while submitting his Person of Indian origin (PIO) application had concealed his father's Pakistani origin.

Mr Salman Taseer, father of Mr Aatish Taseer, was a Pakistani citizen and the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province. Born in Britain, Mr Taseer added he lived in India since the age of two and grew up in the country with his mother, the well-known Indian journalist Tavleen Singh.

PEN America claimed the decision was a punishment for an article Taseer had written criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But people of Indian origin and their spouses can apply for a special status that confers numerous benefits of citizenship, including the right to live and work in India indefinitely.

The writer argued he did not hide his connection to his father Salman Taseer from the public and that their parents' relationship figured in his first book, Stranger To History, published in 2009.

Mr Taseer said in the TIME article that it was "hard not to feel" that he was being punished for what he had written.

It also bears mentioning that Taseer was born to his parents out of wedlock, and brought up by his mother in India.

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"Targeting a journalist's immigration status after the publication of a critical article shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party is intolerant of criticism and freedom of the press, and doesn't bode well for India's worldwide reputation", said Steven Butler, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C.

"This is untrue. Here is the Consul General's acknowledgment of my reply. He has clearly not complied with very basic requirements and hidden information", the MHA spokesperson said in tweet late on Thursday night. While the article comments on the Modi wave which engulfed the nation in 2014, he had compared it the political scenario in 2019, highlighting the "heightened differences prevalent in India".

In the days following the TIME story, the headline of which - "Divider-in-Chief" - particularly captured the imagination of rightwing Twitter, Taseer has been increasingly active on social media, leading an nearly laconic battle against right-leaning, rightwing, and BJP supporting men and women who often tweet their criticism of him and his Islamic roots. "It was why I had always been viewed as Indian in India and why I had been granted an OCI", he wrote.

The notice to Taseer - author of several books, including Stranger To History: A Son's Journey Through Islamic Lands and The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges - regarding his OCI status was sent in September.

On Thursday, Aatish took to Twitter to contest the home ministry's claim. "I've heard nothing from the ministry since", he said.

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. All critical voices are either snooped on, harassed or muzzled.