India

Aatish Taseer says 'sinister plan' saw him stripped of Indian citizenship

Aatish Taseer Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Taseer's father is Pakistan's assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer

British author and columnist Aatish Taseer has said the cancellation of his Indian overseas citizenship was part of a "sinister plan".

The decision comes months after Taseer wrote a piece for Time magazine, which was heavily critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India's home ministry says he tried to "conceal information that his father was of Pakistani origin".

Salman Taseer was the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province.

He was assassinated by a bodyguard when he spoke out in favour of granting clemency to Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent years on death row after she was accused of blasphemy. Her conviction was overturned last year by the country's Supreme Court.

In the 70 years since India and Pakistan gained independence from British India, they have fought three wars.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMeet the Author is with Indian novelist Aatish Taseer.

Taseer told the BBC's Soutik Biswas that he was greatly upset by the decision, and thought it was "sinister in the way they orchestrated it".

"First they ruined my reputation by getting one of their men to call me a radical Islamist, and then they moved against me after leaking the story to the press," he said.

Taseer added that he had been holding Indian citizenship documents - Person of Indian Origin which later merged into Overseas Citizenship of India - since 2000.

He said he had lived in India between the ages of two and 10, and then 26 to 35 years. He says he has local bank accounts, a biometric identification number and paid taxes in the country.

"My father's name is on the citizenship document. I had no access to papers proving he is my father because we had no contact and my mother was not living with him," he added.

Taseer has written at length about his estranged relationship with his father in his book Stranger to History, which was published in 2007. His mother, Tavleen Singh, is an Indian columnist. The two were never married and Ms Singh was his legal guardian, a fact he has cited in his response.

"If there was any discrepancy they could have asked me to come down to India and help them because they knew I was not acting in bad faith. There was no question of concealing my father: his name is on the document, and I have written about him extensively."

India's home ministry said in a statement that Taseer had "failed to dispute the notice" it had sent him, which asked him to explain the "lapse" in information.

"He has clearly not complied with very basic requirements and hidden information," the statement added.

However, Taseer has disputed this.

He tweeted out a picture of an email exchange between himself and the consul general where he objected to the ministry's claim.

Taseer says he will not be able to travel to India now, even on a tourist visa.

"They have accused me of fraud. They have blacklisted me. I cannot come into India as an ordinary citizen. My grandmother is 90 years old and lives in India and I may never see her again," Taseer told the BBC.

In a column in Time magazine reacting to the decision, Taseer said that his May 2019 article on Mr Modi, which was headlined India's Divider in Chief and focused on Hindu nationalism, led to the author being "portrayed as an agent of shadowy Western interests determined to exert undue influence over the Indian election".

He added that his parentage made him "particularly vulnerable" to attacks by Mr Modi's ruling BJP party, who used it to "delegitimise him".

The decision has been criticised in both India and abroad.

The Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement saying the decision showed that India's ruling party was "intolerant of criticism and freedom of the press".

More on this story