News

November 8, 2019

India strips overseas citizenship from reporter who criticized Modi

An excerpt from 20 May Time magazine’s cover (photo: time.com).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Indian government to rescind its shocking decision to withdraw Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) from Aatish Taseer, a British journalist with an Indian mother, in what is clearly a reprisal for an article critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As a result of this decision, confirmed by the home ministry today, Aatish Taseer could be banned from India until further notice. His OCI allowed him to enter and leave the country without a visa, but he was blacklisted in September on the grounds that he had “concealed the fact that his late father was of Pakistani origin.” As well as losing his OCI, he could in future be denied a tourist visa on the same grounds.

 

In an opinion piece published this morning in Time, Taseer points out that it was well known that he had a Pakistani father and that he even wrote a book about it, called “Stranger to History,” without any questions ever being raised about his OCI status. The real reason for this incoherent decision is clearly the cover story he wrote for Time last May about the Hindu nationalist movement and its leader, Prime Minister Modi, who was shown on the cover alongside the headline “India’s Divider-in-Chief.”

 

“Aatish Taseer is manifestly a collateral victim of the Modi government’s arbitrary excesses and its growing inability to tolerate criticism,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “This disgraceful decision is the latest example of the methods this government uses to intimidate any journalist who does not toe the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s line. We call on home minister Amit Shah to recover a semblance of international credibility by rescinding this decision, which combines injustice with meanness.”

 

New Delhi is increasingly using the threat of withdrawal of citizenship to prevent journalists from doing their job. Last August, RSF reported that the foreign ministry had threatened to rescind Le Figaro correspondent Emmanuel Derville’s OCI if he went to Kashmir immediately after its autonomy was revoked.

 

India is ranked 140th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.