Over 260 prominent personalities across the world, including best-selling authors Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Amitav Ghosh have in an open letter urged the Indian government to restore Aatish Taseer's Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card.
The letter, which was published by free speech platform PEN America, claims that the government is "likely retaliating" against Taseer for his critical coverage of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"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," the letter reads.
Last week, the Ministry of Home Affairs revoked the OCI card of the 38-year-old author on the grounds that Taseer concealed the fact that his father was Pakistani. The 38-year-old writer is the son of late Pakistani politician Salmaan Taseer and Indian journalist Tavleen Singh.
Media reports countered the claim, stating that Taseer was being targeted for an article titled ‘Divider-in-Chief’ published in the May issue of TIME magazine which was critical of Modi.
The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) last week had claimed that Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply or objection in the matter, but no such attempt was made by the author.
"Mr. Taseer was given the opportunity to submit his reply/objections regarding his PIO/OCI cards, but he failed to dispute the notice," an MHA spokesperson had said.
Taseer, on the other hand, said he wrote to MHA and sought more time to respond on the matter as he was just given 24 hours to object and not the full 21 days as per the rule.
Congress MP from Kerala Shashi Tharoor had also backed the writer, tweeting, "It is painful to see an official spokesperson of our government making a false claim that is so easily disproved."
The MHA is yet to respond after Taseer’s tweet claiming that he, in fact, replied and appealed for more time to respond to the matter concerning his OCI card.
Earlier, a home ministry spokesperson said Taseer becomes ineligible to hold an OCI card as it is not issued to any person whose parents or grandparents are Pakistani and that he concealed this fact.
As per the Citizenship Act, if the registration as an OCI Cardholder was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or concealment of any material fact, the registration as OCI cardholder shall be cancelled. The person will also be blacklisted, thereby banning his or her future entry into India.