Mumbai: Aatish Taseer, the New York-based journalist and author whose overseas Indian citizenship was cancelled, has rebutted the charge that he did not respond to the government’s notice. In an article on TIME magazine’s website, he linked the Indian government’s action to an article published that was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this year.
In his recent article titled as “I am Indian. Why is the Government Sending Me Into Exile?”, he wrote: “India is my country. The relationship is so instinctive that, like an unwritten constitution, I had never before felt it necessary to articulate it.”
Taseer wrote that he found from Twitter that his Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card had been revoked.
He wrote that his mother sent him a WhatsApp message of the Home Ministry's letter informing him that his Overseas Citizenship of India was being revoked. "I had 21 days to respond and to contest their claims; it was day 20 when I had received the letter," he said, stating that he emailed his response and also sent a hard copy to the Home Ministry.
"Then, on November 7, after The Print reported that my status was under review, the government announced via Twitter that my OCI status had been withdrawn. This was the first I heard of it," Taseer wrote.
"For 39 years, I had not so much as needed a visa for India and now the government was accusing me of misrepresenting myself, accusing me of defrauding them. Now, I may not even be able to obtain a standard tourist visa for India, the Consul General in New York informed me by telephone in September, as I have been accused of defrauding the government," he wrote.
"With my grandmother turning ninety next year - and my mother seventy - the government has cut me off from my country and family... India is my country. The relationship is so instinctive that, like an unwritten constitution, I had never before felt it necessary to articulate it. I could say I was Indian because I had grown up there, because I knew its festivals and languages, and because all five of my books were steeped in its concerns and anxieties. Though I am a British citizen by birth, the OCI, as a substitute for dual citizenship, had made this bond even more real, as it had for so many people of Indian origin worldwide,” he added.
The 38-year-old British-born writer, the son of Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer and journalist Tavleen Singh, has been accused of concealing the fact that his father was a Pakistani.
A Home Ministry spokesperson said Aatish Taseer could not be eligible for an OCI card by the Citizenship Act as the card is not issued to any person whose parents or grandparents are Pakistanis.
The spokesperson said Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply or objection but he failed to dispute the notice.
The Home Ministry spokesperson, however, has emphatically denied that the government had been considering revoking Taseer's overseas citizenship card because of the article and has called such reports "complete misrepresentation and devoid of any facts".
Overseas citizenship extends to foreign citizens of Indian origin almost all the privileges of a citizen except voting. The facility is popular with the Indian diaspora primarily because it allows them to stay in India without a visa, no questions asked.