Writer Aatish Taseer's Overseas Citizenship of India status has been revoked for not complying with "very basic requirements" and concealing information, the Home Ministry said on Thursday, disputing a media report suggesting the move was linked to a story published in the Time magazine in May.
The UK-born writer, however, countered the government saying he had not been given enough time to respond to the charges. Mr Taseer, according to sources, had "comprehensively replied" to the August 13 notice and now plans to legally challenge the revocation of his OCI status.
"Mr Aatish Ali Taseer, while submitting his PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) application, concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin," Home Ministry spokesperson Vasudha Gupta tweeted.
Mr Taseer, son of journalist Tavleen Singh and late Pakistani politician and businessman Salmaan Taseer, had declared Ms Singh as his sole legal parent/guardian, sources said.
OCI status allows foreign citizen of Indian-origin to travel to India visa-free and gives them the right to live and work in the country indefinitely.
Thus, Mr. 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.— Spokesperson, Ministry of Home Affairs (@PIBHomeAffairs) November 7, 2019
Aatish Taseer, a UK citizen, held a Person of Indian Origin card until 2015, when the government merged it with the OCI card scheme.
The ministry called the media report alleging a link between the article he wrote and the stripping of his status "a complete misrepresentation and is devoid of any facts".
Mr Taseer, 38, had authored the Time magazine cover story, published after the national election earlier this year, which called Prime Minister Narendra Modi "India's Divider In Chief" and asked whether India can "endure five more years of his government".
"Mr. Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply/objections regarding his PIO/OCI cards, but he failed to dispute the notice," the ministry spokesperson said.
The writer responded to the government's statement within minutes. "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," he tweeted.
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/z7OtTaLLeOpic.twitter.com/t3LBWUtkdi— Aatish Taseer (@AatishTaseer) November 7, 2019
"...Aatish's mother has also always been an Indian citizen. And, his right to live here was never questioned until he wrote an article that the Home Minister did not like," Tavleen Singh tweeted this morning.
In the pre-election story, published in Time Magazine's international edition on May 20, Mr Taseer has written: "The world's biggest democracy is more divided than ever". He also referred to mob lynchings, the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister and the BJP's decision to field Malegaon blasts accused Pragya Singh Thakur.
Received this. Till a few hours ago the Home Ministry by its own admission did not even know that I had exerted my right to reply. But now they have somehow managed — with the Home Ministry presumably closed — to have a “Competent Authority” review my case and cancel my OCI. pic.twitter.com/Sqzg7flLwq— Aatish Taseer (@AatishTaseer) November 7, 2019
The BJP had called the article an attempt to malign PM Modi's image and had accused the author of pursuing Pakistan's agenda. PM Modi too responded days later. "Time magazine is foreign, the writer has also said he comes from a Pakistani political family. That is enough for his credibility," the prime minister had said.