Before delving deeper into the issues at hand, let us start with what exactly is the National Population Register(NPR)?
The NPR is a list of “usual residents” of the country. A “usual resident” is defined for NPR as a person who has resided in a local area for the past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more. The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country being prepared at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. Every usual resident of India must register in the NPR.
What is NPR’s purpose?
NPR’s purpose is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars. Aadhaar, mobile number, PAN, driving license, voter ID details and Indian passport numbers are among the details that will be collected from all usual residents of India. Sharing of Aadhaar is voluntary in view of the Supreme Court ruling in this regard and hence baseless allegations that NPR is a breach of privacy, by leftist malcontents like Arundhati Roy who is no more than a glorified Naxal sympathiser, are completely unfounded.
What is Brief History of NPR?
Data for NPR was collected in 2010 under the erstwhile Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh, during collection of data for Census of India 2011. For the Congress, its acolytes and a clueless Rahul Gandhi, to now question the NPR, is, therefore, sheer hypocrisy, if not worse! It was updated in 2015 through a door-to-door survey. The digitisation of the updated information has been completed. NPR data will now be updated along with the house-listing phase of Census 2021, in all states except Assam. A gazette notification to this effect has already been published by the central government.
Which states have blocked NPR?
The West Bengal government under its fascist Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has stayed all activities related to the preparation and updating of NPR. The governments of Kerala and Rajasthan have followed suit, saying they will not work on compiling the NPR as mandated by the Centre to record ‘basic information’ on citizens, in a shameful display of ignorance, that disrespects the very core of the federal spirit.
Why is Assam excluded?
As of now, the NPR exercise is not being undertaken in Assam. Assam recently had the NRC exercise undertaken to identify illegal immigrants and infiltrators.
How can NPR data be accessed?
NPR data will not be put in the public domain but will remain a secure database accessible to the relevant user through password protected protocols. The Modi government has assured that it will use the data to enhance the targetting of beneficiary-oriented schemes and will have positive implications on improving internal security, too.
History was made on 9th December 2019 when the Lok Sabha passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), by an overwhelming majority of 311 votes to 80 votes. Again, on 11th December 2019, after a 9 hour long, intense debate, the Rajya Sabha passed the CAB with 125-105 votes. Needless to add, the passage of CAB by the Indian Parliament, which represents the will of India’s 1.3 billion citizens, is the biggest endorsement that this landmark bill, has both its head and heart in the right place. What then, explains the protests in Bengal, Gaya, Jaffarabad, Seelampur and other parts of Delhi?
The Q&A format below exposes the maliciously false narrative surrounding the CAB and concludes that the CAA and NRC exercises are pathbreaking in their intent and ethos and will further cement the vision of an empowered India, under the invincible Modi-Shah duo.
More importantly, CAA and NRC do not violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. Those harping about “Right to Equality” under Article 14, have no problem in taking specific privileges conferred on minorities in India under Articles 29 and 30. Why? Is it a case of wanting to “having your cake and eating it too?” Of course, yes!! In any case, all rights including those under Article 14, are not absolute but subject to “reasonable restrictions” pertaining to “public order, morality and health”.
What is the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?
The Act makes it easier for persecuted minorities from India’s neighbours – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – to become citizens of India as it entitles Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians facing religious persecution in these three nations, to seek Indian citizenship. The Act says the refugees of these six communities will be given Indian citizenship if they entered India on or before 31st December 2014, after residing in India for five years, vide Amendment 2 of the Citizenship Act,1955.
Who benefits from CAA?
The legislation applies to those who were “forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to persecution on the ground of religion”. The requirement to stay in India for those belonging to any of these 6 religions for at least 11 years before applying for Indian citizenship has been reduced to five years. Indian citizenship, under present law, is given either to those born in India or if they have resided in the country for a minimum of 11 years.
Who are excluded from the Act’s purview?
The Act does not apply to tribal areas of Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Meghalaya because of being included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Also, areas that fall under the Inner Limit notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, will also be outside the Act’s purview. This keeps almost entire Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland out of the ambit of the Act.
How is National Register of Citizens (NRC) linked to the Citizenship Act?
The National Register of Citizens is an exercise that will enlist all Indians citizens on a ‘national register’ by vetting their documentation. The NRC does not exclude any Muslim who is a genuine Indian citizen. It only seeks to provide citizenship to minorities from Muslim-majority nations, where the said minorities, are known to face persecution.
The NRC, which identified illegal immigrants from Assam, had been a long-standing demand in Assam. After the updated final NRC in Assam was released on August 31st this year, it excluded the names of over 19 lakh applicants, including Hindus. Hence the malicious narrative being peddled by “left-liberals” that the NRC favours Hindus and is anti-Muslim, is entirely driven by the hate-mongering agenda of those who have been trounced electorally by the BJP in one election after another and are using NRC as merely a convenient tool to tarnish the ruling BJP led Modi government.
NRC, which shall be extended to the rest of the country, does not discriminate based on religion, so Muslims have nothing to fear. Every sane country in the world has a national register of its citizens and India is no exception. Opposition parties like the Congress have amnesia and conveniently forgotten that the Assam accord inked by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, provided for an NRC exercise in Assam, to check illegal migrants and infiltrators.
Congress-led central governments also made suitable insertions in the Citizenship Act thereafter by way of Clause 14A in 2004, relating to issue of national identity cards to all citizens of India and later Schedule 4A in 2009, was also added. Hence fanning violence now, by spreading falsehoods regarding the NRC and CAA, to further the Congress brand of divisive politics, simply because it has been electorally vanquished by the electorate, is not justified.
What is the government’s reasoning for CAA?
Home minister Amit Shah has said that the measure has the endorsement of over a billion Indians crore as it was always a part of the BJP manifesto, both in the General Elections in 2014 and 2019. The Act does not discriminate against anyone and does not snatch anyone’s rights and that is precisely the reason the BJP led Modi government stormed to power with a brute majority, in two successive Lok Sabha elections.
The exclusion of Muslims is not an act of Islamophobia. Muslims in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the majority community in these nations and the CAA is meant for only minorities facing religious persecution in these nations. In any case there are 50 Muslim majority nations globally,of which 45 have officially declared themselves as Islamic Republics. Muslims including Ahmediyad and Bahais can find shelter in any of these 50 Muslim centric nations but a persecuted Hindu, for instance, has no country to turn to. Hence those protesting against CAA are exhibiting Hinduphobia. Being pro-Hindus or pro-Buddhists does not make CAA anti-Muslims.
How many people are likely to apply for naturalisation under CAA?
With the cut-off date set at December 31 2014, the number of people who will benefit from the amendments stands at 31,313, a figure submitted by the IB during a parliamentary committee hearing on the bill in 2016.
“As per our records, there are 31,313 persons belonging to minority communities (Hindus- 25447, Sikhs – 5807, Christians – 55, Buddhists – 2 and Parsis – 2) who have been given long term visa on the basis of their claim of religious persecution in their respective countries and want Indian Citizenship. Hence, these persons will be immediate beneficiaries.”
What is the “NorthEast Angle” in CAA?
The opposition to the CAA has been minuscule. It is only vested,politically aligned groups owing allegiance to the Congress and Leftists,who are fanning violence to derive political capital given their depleting political fortunes. Assam and Meghalaya saw normalcy after temporary imposition of curfew, preventing agenda-driven protests by vested groups from taking a grim turn.
The North-Eastern states have for long faced large scale migration from infiltrators and illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries, thanks to years of lethargy displayed by successive Congress-led regimes. However, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah at the helm, North-East is finally getting its due. It is precisely to prevent any further large scale demographic invasion by infiltrators like Bangladeshi Muslims or the Rohingyas,that the NRC will step in. As for CAA, it will legitimise the residency of only persecuted minorities from the 3 neighbouring countries, without damaging the existing socio-demographic fabric of the North-East, because these “persecuted religious minorities”, are in any case, very small in number, compared to say the demographic invasion by Bangladeshi Muslim migrants who illegally entered the North-East, in lakhs.
Will CAA apply to all Indian states?
The amended law inserts a new clause that says:
“Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.”
Apart from the above exceptions, the law shall be applicable across all states. The Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states like Punjab, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have stated that they will not implement the act in their respective states. However, states do not have the power to refuse implementation of the law, as it is enacted under the Union List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
What is the link between NPR and NRC?
Once NPR is completed, the Census commissioner would notify local registrar for creating a National Register of Citizens (NRC) of India. The Census Commission will remove the names of non-citizens for having a national NRC. A person declared as non-citizen can appeal with a “designated authority” within 30 days of the Census commissioner’s order.
Difference between NPR and NRC. Unlike the NRC, the NPR is not a citizenship enumeration drive, as it would also include a foreigner staying in a locality for more than six months. After NRC, one would get a citizenship card with a unique identity number, which would not be the case with NPR.
Effectively speaking, NPR is a database of people living in India, citizens or not, but National Register of Citizens is a database of Indian citizens. Technically speaking, therefore, they may have little in common. Home Minister Amit Shah has in any case, already clarified that the NPR exercise will not lead to any loss of citizenship for anyone and hence those spreading canards, are either clearly misguided or have an ulterior agenda. The Congress, reduced to a satellite party that no longer enjoys the respect or national stature it once commanded, has used the NPR-NRC issue to fan communal tensions throughout India, under the farcical garb of peace and harmony, that it simply has never believed in, to start with. A return of the failed “Award Wapasi” brigade that is trying very hard to malign India’s image internationally, using the NPR-NRC issue, should realise that its malicious intentions have no takers either at home or abroad, in the “New India”, that is powering ahead under the charismatic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
How is NPR different from the Census?
The NPR is much smaller and limited in its area of operation, scope and reach, to put it in layman’s terms. The decennial census, on the contrary, is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on different characteristics of the people of India conducted based on the Census Act enacted in 1948, with far-reaching ramifications.
The census, 2021 will be done in two phases. In the first phase, the work of house-listing or housing census will be conducted from April to September 2020. In the second phase, the enumeration of population will be done from February 9 to February 28, 2021, with reference moment as 00:00 hours of March 1st, 2021.
For snow-bound areas in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the reference date will be October 1st, 2020.
The census is the basis for reviewing the country’s progress in the past decade, monitoring the ongoing schemes of the government and plan for the future.
The census provides detailed and authentic information on demography, economic activity, literacy and education, housing and household amenities, urbanisation, fertility and mortality, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, language, religion, migration, disability besides others.
The enumerators also collect data related to cultivators and agricultural labourers, their sex, occupational classification of workers in non-households industry, trade, business, profession or service by class of worker and sex. There will be a detailed survey on gender and literacy rate, number of towns, slum households and their population. Information is also collected on sources of potable water, energy, irrigation, method of farming, whether a house is concrete, thatched or others.
With a history of more than 130 years, this reliable, time tested exercise has been bringing out a veritable wealth of statistics every 10 years, beginning from 1872 when the first census was conducted in India,non-synchronously in different parts.
It would be apt to conclude by saying that the CAA does not disturb the status quo of any Indian citizen. It simply gives legitimacy to persecuted religious minorities who are already residing or have been forced to seek refuge in India and were compelled to flee from their “home” countries after facing religious persecution.
Muslims are not a minority in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, hence Muslims have been excluded from CAA. Bollywood starlets,left-leaning stand up comedians and sundry academicians should stick to their knitting, rather than feverishly tweeting about falsehoods and endorsing arson, loot, violence, torching of buses and rampant vandalism by students.
Burning trains and attacking the police force with molotov cocktail grenades, does not qualify as peaceful protests. Right to protest in a democracy does not give anyone the right to destroy public property. Dissent is fine, not descent. A few misguided students from Jamia Milia, JNU, Aligarh Muslim University, etc, do not represent the larger student community and cannot be given a free run to attack democratic institutions under the guise of a protest.
No elected government anywhere in the world will tolerate its men in uniform being attacked by vandals who endorse mobocracy. The CAA and NRC exercises are constitutional, legal and simply put, they symbolise the “greatest good of the greatest number”. As for the NPR, it is a necessary exercise and has nothing to do with the religion of anyone, whatsoever. The NPR initiative is in that sense, as “secular” as it gets and the “pseudo-liberal leftist secular” activists and politicians, polarising the youth of India with a divisive narrative surrounding the CAA-NCR-NPR exercise, are sure to run into a dead-end soon. A resurgent India under the invincible Modi-Shah duo is getting ready to undertake an exercise that is both basic at one level and a high priority at another.
Ms Sanju Verma is an Economist, Chief Spokesperson for BJP Mumbai and Author of the Best Selling Book, “Truth &Dare–The Modi Dynamic”.