Why is the Government sending me into exile, asks Aatish Taseer

Aatish Taseer, a novelist and journalist, has responded to Government of India withdrawing his OCI card in the TIME magazine. His last book is ‘The Twice-Born: Life and Death of the Ganges

Why is the Government sending me into exile, asks Aatish Taseer

NH Web Desk

Two days after Government of India withdrew his OCI status, author and journalist Aatish Taseer has responded with a question of his own on the website of the American magazine TIME. The Indian Consulate in New York, he writes, has informed him that he had been put on a blacklist and will not get even a Tourist Visa to visit India, where his mother Journalist Tavleen Singh lives.

Taseer has good reasons to feel upset. It has always been known in New Delhi, if not elsewhere in India, that he was born out of wedlock, that he was born in London and he was a British citizen. After his father, Salman Taseer, a prominent Pakistani politician, was assassinated in 2011, his links with his father’s family in Pakistan had also been known. Neither he nor his mother hid it.

Why then has the Union Home Ministry woken up in 2019 and accused him of hiding the fact that his father was a Pakistani ? Taseer rightly feels it may have a lot to do with a commentary he wrote for TIME in May this year, an unflattering account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government, which appeared under the headline, “The Divider-in-Chief”.

The MHA, Taseer writes, sent him a notice in September and allowed him three weeks to respond. But it was delivered on the 20th day to his mother in New Delhi, who sent him a copy on WhatsApp. He replied by email the same day and a physical copy was delivered to the MHA. But on November 8, the Government of India indicated that he had not responded to the notice and hence his OCI card was being withdrawn.

Writing in TIME, Taseer says, “ I was born in Britain and have British citizenship, but since the age of two I had lived and grown up in India, with my Indian mother, who is a well-known journalist. She had raised me on her own in Delhi and was always my sole legal guardian, and the only parent I knew for most of my life. It was why I had always been viewed as Indian in India and why I had been granted an OCI.”

“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. 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…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 wrote.

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