New Delhi, November 7, 2019 — The Indian government must cease making threats to revoke the overseas citizenship of journalist Aatish Taseer, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On August 13, the Indian Home Ministry sent a notice to Taseer, a New York-based journalist and author who criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a May cover story he wrote for Time magazine, threatening to revoke his overseas citizenship, a form of permanent residency granted to foreign citizens of Indian origin, according to Indian news website The Print and the notice, which CPJ reviewed.
In a series of tweets today, an official account for the Ministry of Home Affairs said that Taseer was “ineligible” for such citizenship. A few hours later, Taseer posted a screenshot to Twitter of an official notice from the Indian consulate in New York informing him that his overseas citizenship had been cancelled.
“Targeting a journalist’s immigration status after the publication of a critical article shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party is intolerant of criticism and freedom of the press, and doesn’t bode well for India’s international reputation,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, in Washington, D.C. “Home Minister Amit Shah should immediately withdraw the directive and any attempts to alter Aatish Taseer’s overseas citizenship.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs tweets and the August notice alleged that Taseer could not maintain overseas citizenship because his father was a Pakistani national, and Pakistani nationals are not eligible for such status.
Taseer, who has U.K. citizenship and grew up in India, told CPJ that his mother, who has Indian citizenship, was his sole legal guardian. He said that he does not have Pakistani citizenship, and said he believes he is being targeted for his criticism of the Modi government.
The ministry also tweeted that Taseer had been given time to dispute the notice, but said he had not done so. In response, Taseer tweeted an image of an email from the Indian Deputy General Counsul in New York confirming that he disputed the notice, and said he never received a reply from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Ministry of Home Affairs called The Print’s report, which linked the threats to Taseer’s journalism, “devoid of any facts.”
CPJ emailed the Ministry of Home Affairs for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
[Editor’s Note: This article has been updated in its third paragraph to include Taseer’s tweet featuring the message from the Indian consulate in New York.]