New Delhi: 260 writers, Nobel laureates and artists from across the world have written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the government’s decision to revoke the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status of British-born author Aatish Taseer.
The signatories to the letter include Nobel laureates like Orhan Pamuk, John Maxwell Coetzee, Booker winners Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan. Authors Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai, Anita Desai and sitar player Anoushka Shankar, too, are among signatories to the said letter.
In their letter, the signatories write, “We the undersigned are writing to join PEN America, English PEN and PEN International to express our grave concern regarding India’s decision to revoke the OCI status of writer-journalist Aatish Taseer.”
“We are concerned that he has been targeted through an extremely personal form of retaliation for his writing that are critical of the Indian government. We urge that the OCI status, which provides connection to roots and families of citizens of Indian heritage living in other countries, is upheld.”
The signatories added that denying access to India to writers, both Indian and foreign, was against the country’s traditions of free and open views and respect for a diversity of views, and weakened its credentials as a strong and thriving democracy.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had, on November 7, revoked the OCI status of Taseer, who is the son senior Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and late Pakistani politician Salman Taseer, for failing to disclose that his father was a Pakistani national. The MHA had sent a notice to Taseer in this regard in August, but, according to him, gave him just 24 hours instead of full 21 days to file his reply.
It has been alleged that the action has been taken against Taseer for an article in TIME Magazine during Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, in which he referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as India’s ‘Divider in Chief.’