A Bridge Too Far

India Legal|February 3, 2020

A Bridge Too Far
The centre’s three projects are unimplementable and extremely costly. When the needed data is already available through Aadhaar, why incur such a massive expenditure?
MG Devasahayam

THE nation is on the boil over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and National Register of Citizens (NRC).

People see these as communal and unconstitutional. They see these as threatening to turn Muslim citizens into “infiltrators” and non-Muslim citizens into “refugees” which will make them stateless. There is intense resistance throughout the country with students and young women in the vanguard. In many places, the internet has been banned, road and rail traffic restricted, Section 144, CrPC, imposed in BJPruled states and students and other protesters brutally thrashed, shot at, blinded, maimed, even killed.

India has not witnessed such a widespread upsurge leading to State oppression and repression in recent history. All in the pursuit of an unnecessary and unimplementable agenda.

Both the NPR and NRC exercises flow out of the 2003 amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955, and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, thrust by the then BJP-led NDA-1 government. The NPR has nothing to do with the Census of India, which is conducted every 10 years and is due next in 2021. While the Census collects information about all residents of India without listing their names, the NPR is a list of names of all persons usually residing within a specified local area for over six months, regardless of their nationality.

The NRC will effectively be a subset of the NPR. The 2003 Rules provide for verification of the details by the local registrar (normally a taluka or town functionary) who will segregate cases of doubtful citizenship and conduct further inquiries. Based on the inquiries he will prepare a draft local register of Indian citizens, which would exclude those not able to establish, through documentary proof, their claim to be citizens of India.

This is where the real danger lurks because, as brought out by the experience in Assam, citizens are required to establish their citizenship, irrespective of their religious affiliation. NPR 2020, unlike NPR 2010, asks not only for the names of the parents of the resident, but also their date and place of birth. A person who is unable to furnish these details of his parents or, for that matter, of himself, could well be classified a “doubtful citizen”.

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February 3, 2020