Two different BJP-led governments had issued the People of Indian Origin (PIO) card and the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card to author Aatish Taseer in January 2000 and July 2016, respectively. The revocation of his OCI card Thursday is being read by many as a response to an article he wrote this May in Time magazine which was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The PIO scheme was launched in 1999 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, and the PIO and OCI schemes were merged and re-launched in 2015.
The fact that the government cited Taseer’s “Pakistan origins” to revoke his OCI card despite him being raised by his mother sits at odds with the BJP-led government’s moves towards progressively liberalising the passport rules about a single parent.
While there was no explanation on how and why the government suddenly rummaged through his PIO application, a Union Home Ministry spokesperson Thursday said Taseer had “concealed the fact of Pak origin of his late father” in the application.
Taseer, a British passport-holder, was given an OCI card on the basis that he is a child of an Indian national. While his father Salmaan Taseer was a Pakistan national, his mother Tavleen Singh, senior journalist and columnist with The Indian Express, raised him as a single mother. The two never married, were estranged, and she was Taseer’s sole legal guardian. Salmaan Taseer was a prominent politician in Pakistan and was assassinated for speaking out against his country’s blasphemy law.
What also is at odds with the argument about his father’s nationality is that while the BJP-led government’s passport rules relating to a single parent were eased, the rules to grant OCI card have remained stuck in time. In January 2018, the government decided that passports will no longer have information — names of father/ legal guardian, mother, spouse, and address — printed on the last page.
The Ministry of External Affairs had then said, “A three-member Committee comprising the officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Women and Child Development was constituted to examine various issues pertaining to passport applications where mother/ child had insisted that the name of the father should not be mentioned in the passport and also relating to passport issued to children with single parent and to adopted children. The Report of the Committee had been accepted by the Ministry. One of the recommendations of the Committee was that the Ministry of External Affairs should explore the possibility of doing away with the printing of information contained in the Passport Booklet such as names of father/legal guardian, mother, spouse, and address contained in the last page of the passport.”
Aatish holds a British passport and a Green Card in the US. He grew up in India, but was never stamped an Indian visa. Tavleen Singh, his mother, had submitted an affidavit in 1982 that she was the sole guardian. He never met his father till 2002 when he was 21, and after a few years, in 2005-06, he was estranged from his father again.
On Thursday, the MHA spokesperson said, “Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply/ objections regarding his PIO/ OCI cards, but he failed to dispute the notice,” the spokesperson said. “Thus, 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,” the spokesperson said.
The government invoked Clause 7A of the OCI card rules which states: “Provided further that no person, who or either of whose parents or grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan, Bangladesh or such other country as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify, shall be eligible for registration as an Overseas Citizen of India Cardholder under this sub-section.”