Columnist Tavleen Singh on Saturday lashed out at the Centre for revoking the Overseas Citizen of India status of her son and writer Aatish Taseer. The government has accused Taseer of not disclosing in official documents that his father is Pakistani politician Salman Taseer, who was assassinated in 2011.

In an opinion article in The Indian Express, titled Sending my son to exile”, Singh said what had happened to Taseer was “not just wrong but evil”. She compared it to the National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam that excluded more than 19 lakh people from the final list.

The damage to India’s reputation as the world’s largest democracy was incalculable, Singh wrote. The columnist said she initially assumed that the Centre’s move was a misunderstanding, and tried to get in touch with the Ministry of Home Affairs. However, he repeated attempts to get in touch with the ministry or Hiren Joshi, the officer of special duty (communication and information technology) in the Prime Minister’s Office, were in vain.

“It was then that I realised that somebody very high up wanted revenge on Aatish,” Singh wrote. “This had been a niggling fear at the back of my mind ever since he wrote that article in Time magazine that appeared on the cover with a distorted sketch of Narendra Modi and the words, ‘Divider in Chief’.”

Taseer, who wrote the article during the Lok Sabha elections in May, admitted on Friday in an article in the magazine that he had “expected a reprisal” for the article, “but not a severing”.

‘Inaccurate and ill-timed’ article

Singh, who has been a vocal supporter of the Modi administration, said she had told her son that the article was “inaccurate and ill-timed”, especially since it was published in the last week of election campaign. She admitted that the “piece was offensive”, but pointed out that it should have offended Congress leader Rahul Gandhi more than the prime minister. Soon after it was published, the “plot to exile” Taseer began, Singh claimed.

The journalist recalled that trolls had hit out at Taseer on social media and he was called not just a Pakistani but “an ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] agent and a jihadist”. Singh said neither she nor Taseer had ever lied about who his father was.

Taseer was born in 1980 after Singh had a brief relationship with Salman Taseer when they both lived in the United Kingdom. They were never married. Aatish Taseer is a British national. Salman Taseer held dual citizenships – British and Pakistani. The writer did not have a relationship with his father till he was 21. He was raised by his mother.

Singh recalled the time she came to India with Taseer and got a job with the help of former Union minister MJ Akbar in The Telegraph. She said she received support from her mother to pay rent for an accommodation in New Delhi, while her friends such as former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi helped her out with clothes and finances.

“But, grateful as I am to all those who helped me through those difficult years, I have to say that I would not advise any woman to become a single mother,” wrote the columnist. Singh said she was horrified that her son was now facing exile without her getting a chance to clarify his position.

“I am not sure that I can afford to spend the next 10 years fighting a legal battle against the mighty Indian state,” wrote the journalist. “Even as I write these words, my heart goes out to those people whom the home minister calls ‘termites’ who may actually be Indian ‘termites’ but will probably spend the rest of their lives in detention centres because if I cannot afford a legal battle, how can they.”

Home Minister Amit Shah has repeatedly called for the implementation of the NRC exercise in the rest of India. In September 2018, Shah had called Bangladeshi migrants “termites”, and said they would soon be removed from electoral rolls.

Also read:

Revocation of Aatish Taseer’s OCI card focuses attention on arbitrary clause in citizenship bill

Amit Shah’s ‘migrant termites’ speech echoes leaders around the world who orchestrated mass violence

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