'Time'd out? Aatish Taseer cries foul after Home Ministry revokes OCI card

With my grandmother turning ninety next year - and my mother seventy - the government has cut me off from my country and family, Taseer wrote in an article in Time magazine.
New York-based author and journalist Aatish Taseer. (Photo | EPS)
New York-based author and journalist Aatish Taseer. (Photo | EPS)

NEW DELHI: British-born writer Aatish Ali Taseer has reacted strongly to the news that he stands to lose the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card and faces a ban on future visits to India.

"With my grandmother turning ninety next year - and my mother seventy - the government has cut me off from my country and family," Taseer wrote in an article headlined I am Indian. Why is the Government Sending Me Into Exile?

A Home Ministry spokesperson had said on Thursday that Taseer is ineligible to hold an OCI card as per the Citizenship Act, 1955, since the card cannot be issued to any person whose parents or grandparents are Pakistanis and he hid this fact. Taseer has clearly not complied with very basic requirements and hidden information, the spokesperson added.

The 38-year-old writer, the son of late Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh, was, according to the government, given the opportunity to submit his reply/objection regarding the decision to revoke his Person of India Origin/OCI cards, but he failed to dispute the notice.

The Home Ministry spokesperson who stated this also denied allegations that the government's decision was in retaliation to an article in the Time magazine, which was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the news was a "complete misrepresentation and devoid of any facts".

Taseer, in his response to the Home Ministry's statement, said that he was not given 21 days to reply to the ministry notice but just 24 hours. 

"I had 21 days to respond and to contest their claims; it was day 20 when I had received the letter. If I didn't respond it would be presumed I had nothing to say in the matter and my OCI would be cancelled. I responded by email immediately to contest their claims, with the Indian Consul General of New York acknowledging receipt, and a hard copy of which was delivered to the Home Ministry," he wrote in Time.

He also refuted claims that he was a Pakistani, writing in the piece that "my relationship with my father - who was Governor of Punjab in Pakistan when he was assassinated in 2011 - had been complicated. Born out of wedlock, I was not in contact with my father until I was twenty-one. 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." 

Taseer's mother Taveleen Singh pulled no punches while reacting to the news. "Just to say that Sonia Gandhi took her revenge on me in her fashion. But, it is true that she never tried to harm my son," she tweeted.

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