The Union home ministry on Thursday revoked the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card of British-born writer Aatish Taseer, claiming he concealed the fact that his father was Pakistani.
The decision prompted the Committee to Protect Journalists to ask the Indian government to stop making such threats.
PEN America expressed concern the government was retaliating against journalist Taseer for his reporting.
A home ministry spokesperson, who denied the decision had anything to do with the TIME article, said Taseer was ineligible to hold an OCI card, as per the Citizenship Act, 1955, because the card is not issued to any person whose parents or grandparents are Pakistanis. The ministry claimed he hid this fact.
The home ministry spokesperson said Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply/objection regarding his Person of India Origin/OCI cards, but had failed to dispute the notice.
Taseer responded to this on Twitter with a photo of his response and the ministry’s acknowledgement of it. He also said he was not given 21 days to reply to the notice but 24 hours and had since not gotten a response from the ministry itself.
The 38-year-old writer is the son of late Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh.
Salmaan Taseer and Tavleen Singh never married and Aatish was raised by his mother as his sole legal guardian, reports The Indian Express, where Singh is a columnist.
“Targeting a journalist’s immigration status after the publication of a critical article shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party is intolerant of criticism and freedom of the press, and doesn’t bode well for India’s international reputation,” CPJ’s Asia program coordinator Steven Butler said.
“Home Minister Amit Shah should immediately withdraw the directive and any attempts to alter Aatish Taseer’s overseas citizenship,” he added.
As per the Citizenship Act, if the registration as an OCI card holder was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact, their registration as OCI card holder is cancelled. The person is also blacklisted, thereby banning his or her future entry into India, PTI reports.
“Harassing critical writers and journalists not just in India but globally is a disturbing new low for Modi’s government that’s already put Indian democracy on its heels,” Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America, said in the organisation’s statement.
“Revoking Aatish Taseer’s citizenship document — which would in effect also ban him from visiting his childhood home and seeing his mother and grandmother — is a cruelly personal and vindictive way to punish a journalist for their critical coverage. We call on the Indian government to cease their judicial harassment of Taseer immediately and allow him to keep his OCI card.”