Writers, journalists across the world ask govt. to review Taseer OCI decision

The Home Ministry had revoked writer Aatish Taseer’s OCI last week, saying he had “concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin”

Updated - November 28, 2021 11:12 am IST

Published - November 14, 2019 07:18 pm IST - Washington DC

Aatish Taseer. File

Aatish Taseer. File

More than 260 writers, 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 asking that the government review its decision to rescind writer Aatish Taseer's Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI).

“We are extremely concerned that Taseer appears to have been targeted for an extremely personal form of retaliation due to his writing and reporting that has been critical of the Indian government,” says the letter, from the authors who have joined PEN America, English PEN and PEN International, a network of writers, to express their “grave concern” regarding the government’s action.

“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 says.

Explained | What is an OCI card and how to apply for it?

The Home Ministry had revoked Mr. Taseer’s OCI last week, saying he had “concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin”.

Mr. Taseer, a British citizen and American permanent resident, has denied concealing this fact, and has only days to hand in his OCI document to the Indian Consulate in New York or risk being barred from applying for an Indian visa again, The Hindu had reported.

“In his application for the OCI status, Taseer listed his father’s name and never tried to hide his identity; in fact, a number of his books and articles have extensively covered his heritage and past,” the PEN letter says.

Mr. Taseer was raised in India by his mother, journalist Tavleen Singh, and did not meet his father until he was 21 years old and already in possession of a PIO card.

Also read | Revoking citizenship: on the Aatish Taseer case

“We urge that the spirit of the OCI regulations, which are designed to provide status and connection to their roots and family to citizens of other countries with Indian heritage, are upheld, and do not discriminate against single mothers,” the PEN letter said.

The authors of the PEN letter also said that denying writers, Indian and foreign, access to India, chills public discourse and is against India’s traditions of open debate.

 

“Denying access to the country to writers of both foreign and Indian origin casts a chill on public discourse; it flies in the face of India’s traditions of free and open debate and respect for a diversity of views, and weakens its credentials as a strong and thriving democracy. We write to respectfully request that the Indian government review this decision, to ensure that Aatish Taseer has access to his childhood home and family, and that other writers are not similarly targeted.”

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