More than 250 writers and activists, including Salman Rushdie, Orhan Pamuk and Margaret Atwood, have signed a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting a review of the decision to revoke author Aatish Taseer’s Overseas Citizen of India card.
“We, the undersigned writers, journalists, creative artists, academics, and activists, are writing to join PEN America, English PEN, and PEN International to express our grave concern regarding the Indian government’s recent decision to revoke writer and journalist Aatish Taseer’s Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status,” the letter says.
Those who have signed the letter include Anita Desai, Kiran Desai, Chimamanda Adichie, Tahmima Anam, Homi K Bhabha, Mia Farrow, Amitav Ghosh, Mohsin Hamid, Christophe Jaffrelot, Jhumpa Lahiri, Suketu Mehta, Sarover Zaidi, Jeet Thayil, Zadie Smith, Gloria Steinem, Elif Shafak, among others.
The letter refers to the TIME article Taseer wrote on Prime Mnister Narednra Modi in May this year, titled “India’s Divider in Chief”, saying it “drew an official complaint from the Indian government and sustained online harassment.”
“We are extremely concerned that Taseer appears to have been targeted for an extremely personal form of retaliation due to his writing and reporting that has been critical of the Indian government,” the letter says.
Urging that the “spirit of the OCI regulations are upheld” and there is no discrimination against single mothers, the letter says: “Denying access to the country to writers of both foreign and Indian origin casts a chill on public discourse; it flies in the face of India’s traditions of free and open debate and respect for a diversity of views, and weakens its credentials as a strong and thriving democracy. ”
“We write to respectfully request that the Indian government review this decision, to ensure that Aatish Taseer has access to his childhood home and family, and that other writers are not similarly targeted,” it adds.
Taseer’s OCI card was revoked for “concealing the fact of Pak origin of his late father”. On November 7, a Union Home Ministry spokesperson had said: “Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply/objections regarding his PIO/OCI cards, but he failed to dispute the notice. 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.”
Taseer is the son of journalist Tavleen Singh and late Pakistani politician Salman Taseer. He was brought up by Singh as a single mother, and she is his sole legal guardian.