India markets closed

Aatish Taseer’s criticism of PM Modi was best ignored

The Financial Express
Aatish Taseer, PM Modi , narendra modi, OCI, Overseas Citizen of India 

Not everyone agreed with Aatish Taseer's cover feature on prime minister Narendra Modi for Time magazine, provocatively titled "India’s Divider in Chief", in the midst of the elections, in May 2019. While the government was upset, many others felt much of what Taseer had written was exaggerated, and more than a bit of a rant. But, even they were taken aback when, in last week, the home ministry revoked Taseer's Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) status on grounds that his father was deceased Pakistani politician Salman Taseer; his mother is Indian journalist Tavleen Singh. It was difficult to point to flaws in the revocation, though, since the OCI law is clear that no person who has a parent/grandparent/great-grand parent who is, or had been, a citizen of Pakistan or Bangladesh can register for the status. Taseer and his mother's explanation for not disclosing his Pakistani father was that the original application had been made by the mother, who was an Indian, and that the father-who was also estranged-had a British passport. It is not clear if this was a good enough reason for not providing full information.

But, even those who wanted to teach Taseer a lesson, assuming this is what it was, should have known this would be used to convey that Modi was intolerant of criticism. That is precisely what it did; Taseer's mother indulged in more than a bit of hyperbole when she wrote an article titled, "Sending my son to exile". Taseer was never sent to exile-or tadi-paar-and is free to apply for a visa to come to India. But, the controversy was stirred, and now the likes of Jhumpa Lahiri, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, and 257 other noted writers have thrown their weight behind Taseer. A needless controversy has been created and, ironically, the fact that an Indian mother's child can't be an OCI just because the father is a Pakistani/Bangladeshi also flies in the face of the progressive stand taken on gender issues: the triple talaq legislation was based on gender justice and, in the case of passports, it is no longer compulsory that the father's name be entered.