Aatish Taseer's citizenship row: 260 personalities write to PM Modi
Journalist Aatish Taseer had to lose his Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status and it created quite an uproar. He claimed he was "sent to exile" because he penned a strong-worded article about Prime Minister Narendra Modi before Lok Sabha polls. But Centre said it was done because Taseer hid information about his Pakistani father. Now, over 260 writers have lent support to him.
Taseer is the son of senior journalist Tavleen Singh and Pakistan politician Salman Taseer, who was assassinated in 2011. Born in Britain, he has published a number of books, including one on Banaras tiled The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges. However, his TIME piece titled India's Divider-in-Chief, in which he was critical of PM Modi sent the BJP leader's fans amok and he was trolled relentlessly.
Taseer got a PIO card in 1999 and was issued an OCI card in 2016, following the merger of the PIO and OCI cards. He also holds a green card in the US. In 1982, Singh in an affidavit declared that she was Taseer's sole guardian. In fact, he didn't even meet his father until he was 21 years old and grew estranged again.
Subsequently, this month, Taseer lost its OCI status. He didn't revert to notices, Ministry of Home Affairs, which handles citizenship matters, claimed. But the writer said, "This is untrue. I was given not the full 21 days, but rather 24 hours to reply. I've heard nothing from the ministry since." It is not difficult to connect the dots here.
This episode yet again started conversations about how thin-skinned this regime is that it wasn't able to digest a critical piece on PM Modi. Meanwhile, Taseer penned articles in various publications asking the government why he was not being allowed to visit his own country. Fortunately, for him, some of the celebrated literary names have stood by him and approached PM Modi.
Among those who signed the letter are Orhan Pamuk and John Maxwell Coetzee, who were given Nobel Prize for literature. Booker winners Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, and Ian McEwan also lent their support. So did Chimamanda Adichie, Christiane Amanpour, Michael Chabon, Don DeLillo, John Coetzee, Anita Desai, Louise Erdrich, Mia Farrow, Philip Gourevitch, Jhumpa Lahiri, Suketu Mehta, Maaza Mengiste, and Perumal Murugan.
"We, the undersigned writers, journalists, creative artists, academics, and activists, are writing to join PEN America, English PEN, and PEN International to express our grave concern," the letter read. The letter stated this episode was mere retaliation against a journalist whose words ticked off "an increasingly nationalistic and authoritarian prime minister." Further, the writers said they are concerned that Taseer was targeted.
"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," the letter went on.