Skip to main content

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Rushdie, Pamuk
Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.
In a letter to Modi, they say, the move “flies in the face of India’s traditions of free and open debate”. Born in UK but grew up in India, Taseer is a novelist, memoirist and journalist, whose cover story for "Time" magazine under the headline “India’s divider in chief”, highly critical of Modi’s government, is said to be the reason behind Government of India move.
Last week, Taseer was stripped of his overseas citizenship of India (OCI) status, meaning he may be blacklisted and thus never able to return to the country, according to the free-speech organisation PEN. Taseer found out about the revocation of his OCI status when India’s home ministry announced the decision on Twitter.

Text:

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.
Taseer, a UK/citizen with a US Green Card, has had documentation registering his overseas Indian status since 2000, which allows foreign citizens of Indian heritage to live and work in India indefinitely. His case is unusual; he grew up in India with his single mother, the prominent Indian journalist Tavleen Singh, as his sole guardian, and has spent the majority of his life there, both as a child and adult.
He was estranged from his father Salman Taseer -- who is of mixed British and Pakistani heritage and who lived in the UK at the time of his brief relationship with Taseer’s mother, whom he never married. They did not meet until he was an adult.
Aatish
Although the OCI regulations stipulate that the status is not granted to an individual whose parent or grandparent is of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, Taseer grew up in India with his Indian mother and Indian grandparents, and his parents were estranged when Taseer moved as a child to India with his mother. 
In his application for the OCI status, Taseer listed his father’s name and never tried to hide his identity; in fact, a number of his books and articles have extensively covered his heritage and past.
In May 2019, amid a contentious Indian election season, Taseer wrote a cover story for TIME magazine headlined “India’s Divider in Chief,” which drew an official complaint from the Indian government and sustained online harassment. On September 3, 2019, Taseer received a letter from the Indian Home Ministry (dated August 13, 2019) notifying him of the government’s intention to revoke his OCI card and giving him three weeks to respond.
He responded the following day, and this reply was acknowledged by the Consulate General of India in New York, but he received no further word until November 7, when the Home Ministry announced in a series of tweets that Taseer had hidden information about his late father’s nationality and had failed to challenge their notice; Taseer disputes both claims.
A few hours after the home ministry’s tweets, Taseer received an email from the consulate informing him that the Government of India had cancelled his OCI status, effective immediately. If an individual’s OCI status is revoked, they may be placed on a blacklist preventing their future entry into India.
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. We urge that the spirit of the OCI regulations, which are designed to provide status and connection to their roots and family to citizens of other countries with Indian heritage, are upheld, and do not discriminate against single mothers.
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.
---
Click HERE for list of signatories

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.