The Indian government has revoked Aatish Taseer’s Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card for concealing the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin, thereby sending him into “exile”.
Aatish, however, believes that he is being punished by PM Narendra Modi’s government over an article written in May 2019 that was critical of him.
“But it is hard not to feel, given the timing, that I was being punished for what I had written,” he wrote in a recent article for TIME.
Aatish is the son of Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and former Punjab governor, late Salman Taseer.
In a series of tweets, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced their decision.
“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,” said the tweet.
Mr. Aatish Ali Taseer, while submitting his PIO application, concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin.
— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) November 7, 2019
The journalist immediately took to Twitter to refute the ministry’s claim.
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 screenshot posted by Aatish shows the MHA’s acknowledgment of his response to them, which contradicts their tweet that said Aatish “failed to dispute the notice”.
Taseer’s writings across the years have done very little to hide the fact that his father was Pakistani. His identity has been a subject of most of Aatish’s essays and novels, including his autobiographical book Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands.
His mother, Tavleen, has also mentioned Salman in her writings.
In his opinion piece, Aatish the government was accusing him of “misrepresenting myself, accusing me of defrauding them”.
The restrictions imposed on the journalist mean he may be unable to obtain a standard tourist visa for India too.
Aatish also noted that the home ministry’s website states the registration of such a person will not only be cancelled forthwith but he/she will also be blacklisted, preventing his/her future entry into India.
“With my grandmother turning ninety next year – and my mother seventy — the government has cut me off from my country and family,” Aatish wrote.
Although Aatish has lived in the US since getting married, he frequently returns to India to visit his family and write about the country.
“I clung to the idea of India as a liberal democracy, the world’s largest,” he continued. “But entering the United States in September, I was aware for the first time that I was no longer merely an immigrant, no longer someone moving between his home country and an adoptive one. I was an exile,” concluded Aatish.