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Tavleen Singh, Aatish Taseer's mother and Modi supporter, refutes BJP's 'Pakistani citizen' comment

BJP called him a “Pakistani citizen” to discredit the cover story he had written on Modi, titled “India’s Divider in Chief”

By TT Bureau in New Delhi
  • Published 13.05.19, 6:08 AM
  • Updated 13.05.19, 6:08 AM
  • 3 mins read
Aatish Taseer (@AatishTaseer)

Unsparing, a dam appears to have burst on a mother who has supported Narendra Modi but was forced to clarify on Mother’s Day that her son is not a Pakistani.

Veteran journalist Tavleen Singh on Sunday tweeted that her son Aatish Taseer is not a Pakistani, a day after the BJP described him as a “Pakistani citizen” to discredit the cover story he had written for Time magazine on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, titled “India’s Divider in Chief”.

The article asks, “Can the World’s Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government?”

Aatish Taseer too told a television channel on Sunday that the BJP’s description of him as a Pakistani citizen was “a lie”.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, who had said on Saturday that “a Pakistani citizen calls Modiji divider and Rahul Gandhi tweets”, could not be contacted for comment on Sunday despite multiple attempts by this newspaper.

But what stood out was the trigger that prompted Tavleen Singh to respond and the nature of the innumerable comments her response evoked.

On Saturday, the senior journalist had not responded when Patra underscored the Pakistani lineage of Aatish Taseer. His father is the late Salmaan Taseer, who was the governor of Pakistan’s most populous and influential state, Punjab, and was assassinated.

But on Sunday, Tavleen Singh responded to actor Kabir Bedi who had tweeted: “How can the World’s Most Famous Magazine Endorse such a Blatantly Biased Attack on Prime Minister Modi by a Pakistani while India’s elections are still going on?”

Tavleen Singh tweeted in response: “Kabir, disagree with what he writes. But, you know that he isn’t Pakistani.”

Normally, her reply — disagreeing with her son’s views on Modi but calling untrue a claim by Modi’s party — would have been held up as an example of the plurality of opinions, not just in the country but also within families.

But what followed was a steady stream of tweets that reminded Tavleen Singh of her own support for Modi.

One tweeter posted the post-war confession in 1946 by pastor Martin Niemoller, which later became a poem on the cowardice of German intellectuals during the Nazi regime. The “First they came…” poem ends with the line “Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me”.

One tweet said: “Dear Tavleen, what goes around comes around, no? An apt quote from H Clinton for you: ‘It’s like that old story — you can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours. Eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard’.”

Another tweeted: “Tavleenji, I am sorry for you but you supported this kind of filth and look what it is doing back to you.”

It was not clear whether the tweeter was referring to any specific instance or suggesting that support for Modi amounts to endorsement of all outcomes associated with him.

“Sooner or later, this fire catches up with those who fanned it,” one person said.

A common thread that ran through many tweets was a reminder that no one was safe from the purveyors of hate and that support for such forces, however selective and issue-based, was no guarantee of personal protection.

“If Tavleen thinks that by supporting fascists, they won’t haunt her and her family… People who don’t learn from history are bound to suffer,” one tweet said.

Another said: “Tavleen now knows how the Opposition/ rivals felt when they were called Pakistani?

“Once the hate genie is out, it will subsume the very hand that feeds it…. Advani was the biggest example, Modi will be the next and the cycle will continue…. It’s not late to ‘re-set’!”

Some hinted at what appeared to be their own plight of being taunted daily. “Ab pata chala na mam, unnecessary jo Indian Muslims ko daily taunt karte hai. We earn here, stay here, pay taxes here and love our beloved country wholeheartedly. Then why some Sanghis and idiots say like that. THINK from others’ point of view also,” a tweet said.

One tweet reminded Tavleen Singh: “This is new India where resentments are not accepted, you just have to toe the line, else you will be branded Pakistani.”

Another took care to thank Tavleen Singh and praise her son. “Thank you for pointing this out. Ateesh is that rare person who has invested time to learn Sanskrit & Urdu, the two jewels among languages of India. He is too fine a mind to be pinned down to any piece of land. Irrespective of his citizenship, he is as much Indian as any.”

When a former BBC journalist had asked, before the nationality controversy had broken, whether an Indian magazine could have published a cover like Time’s, Tavleen Singh had tweeted: “You will find that it (the article by Aatish Taseer) is a critique of the Indian political scenario, not just Modi. He calls Rahul Gandhi ‘an unteachable mediocrity’. And, by the way, Modi has been attacked in the Indian media since day one.”

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