250 Writers, Activists Urge India To Review Cancellation Of Aatish Taseer's Citizenship
More than 250 writers, journalists and activists across the world have opposed the Indian government’s order to revoke Aatish Taseer’s Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI). Aatish Taseer is an Indian UK born writer who has written extensively against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for TIME Magazine on May 9.
Journalists and artists, including Margaret Atwood, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Chimamanda Adichie, Perumal Murugan, and Amitav Gosh have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging the government to review its decision to repeal Aatish Overseas Citizenship.
The letter said that Taseer has been targeted for an extremely personal retaliation for his writing and reporting against the Indian government. The signatories joined free speech organisations PEN America, English PEN, and PEN International to express their “grave concern”.
“In May 2019, amid a contentious Indian election season, Taseer wrote a cover story for TIME magazine headlined ‘India’s Divider in Chief’, which drew an official complaint from the Indian government and sustained online harassment,” the letter added.
The signatories asked the government to follow the “spirit of the OCI regulations which are designed to provide status and connection to their roots and family with Indian heritage.”
The letter said that denying entry to the writers of both foreign and Indian origin casts a chill on public discourse and threatens India’s traditions of free and open debate and respect for a diversity of views. The letter further read that such an act by a government weakens the country’s credentials as a strong and thriving democracy.
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, the director of PEN America’s Free Expression at Risk Program, said it is “intolerable for the Indian government to hide behind the fig leaf of bureaucracy”.
The home ministry of India on November 7 revoked the OCI of Aatish Taseer for failing to mention his late father’s origin.
The UK born writer has, however, countered the government’s order by saying that he was not given enough time to respond to the charges. Taseer has blatantly criticised the government for rescinding his citizenship and said he was punished for his opinion piece on the prime minister.
A Home Ministry spokesperson – Vasudha Gupta wrote on Twitter that Aatish Taseer had “concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin” while submitting his PIO (Persons of Indian Origin). In the second part of the tweet, Gupta wrote that Taseer is “ineligible to hold an OCI card, as per the Citizenship Act, 1955” as he failed to comply with “very basic requirement and hidden information”.
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.
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) November 7, 2019
In response to these Tweets, Taseer wrote on Twitter that he was only given 24 hours to reply to the notice instead of providing him 21 days (standard procedure time).
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. https://t.co/z7OtTaLLeO pic.twitter.com/t3LBWUtkdi
— Aatish Taseer (@AatishTaseer) November 7, 2019
The move drew a lot of flak from the Opposition party who questioned the government for targeting an author for his views. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said he had been attacked by Taseer’s mother, but he condemned the move to revoke author’s citizenship.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor lambasted the government and said the Centre is “so weak” that it feels threatened by a journalist.