Continuing the pattern of spreading rumours and raising false alarms against the National Population Register (NPR) exercise, Rajasthan CM, Ashok Gehlot has demanded the withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and has also made some highly misleading remarks about the NPR.
Despite the Modi government repeatedly making it clear that there is no valid apprehension of NPR taking away anybody’s citizenship, Gehlot said that information on birthplace of parents was being sought for the NPR. He added, “If I am not able to furnish the details, I too would be asked to live in a detention centre. I am not aware of the birthplace of my parents. You stay assured, if such a situation comes then I would be the first to go there.”
Gehlot was speaking at an anti CAA protest site in Jaipur that is being billed as Jaipur’s “Shaheen Bagh”. What his remark has done is to fuel further tensions and false fears against the NPR.
Ever since the NPR was announced, the rumour mills which had spread all kinds of bizarre myths against the CAA, have been spreading absurd fears and myths against the NPR.
There is a clear attempt to sabotage the NPR, which is nothing but a register of usual residents, defined as those residing or intending to reside in an area for a period of six months or more, 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.
How the opposition has managed to portray it as an instrument for disenfranchisement or snatching away citizenship is essential for it to explain.
However, the NPR is critical for India, as it will help the Union government in more accurate and effective targeting of the social sector schemes- Ayushman Bharat, Jandhan Yojna, etc.
Given the unprecedented urbanisation in the last few decades, there is a huge migrant population which lives away from its native place. These people are not able to reap the benefit of central government’s social security schemes, as most of the benefits are linked to ration card or other identity cards, whose data is managed by state governments.
With NPR all such issues will be resolved. Moreover, a comprehensive database will reduce duplication of efforts. Currently, there is a multitude of authorities collecting data for specific purposes. A single database would mean that all such authorities can rely upon the NPR data.
The exercise is crucial for various purposes including national security, identity, batter targeting of social sector schemes and saving national resources.
Even NRC, which is not even under consideration has been demonised by the opposition. However, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) too is critical in the largest interests of national security and public order.
We cannot manage with an unregistered system of nationality. A country with no authentic documentation of its citizens is a country surviving on the edge, its crime rates are subject to external influence, its intelligence agencies are handicapped by the lack of a missing variable in the equation, its resources are divided innumerably, its public funds fed by taxpayers are shared unjustifiably with non-citizens, and its democracy faces the risk of being taken over by the ‘outsider’.
The NPR, or for that matter the NRC bear no link, proximate or remote, with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The NPR and NRC are data collection exercises for identifying usual residents and citizens with a view of better targeting of social welfare schemes.
The CAA operates at a completely different domain. It is supposed to give citizenship to the persecuted religious minorities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This has however not stopped leaders like Gehlot from making adverse remarks against the NPR at anti-CAA rallies and protests.
What Gehlot has said is actually a part of the larger conspiracy hatched by the entire left-liberal cabal and the opposition parties to bring the NPR exercise to a grinding halt.
There have been attempts to sabotage the NPR exercise with so-called intellectuals like writer-activist, Arundhati Roy exhorting people to give false details when the exercise is conducted.
Arundhati Roy said, “We need to fight against it and have a plan. When they visit your home for NPR and ask for your name give them some different name. We will decide on five names, such as Ranga Billa, Kung Fu kutta…For address, say 7 Race Course Road. A lot of subversions will be needed, we are not born to face lathis and bullets.”
Similar attempts like the deranged ‘Hum kagaz nahi dikhayenge’ campaign furthered by politicians, artists and comedians, who are all opposed to the CAA, NPR and the NRC in a nefarious attempt to paint all three unrelated issues as proximate.
At a political level, some of the States have been playing spoilsport. Mamata Banerjee has stayed NPR work in the state of West Bengal, and the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the state of Kerala too has halted the NPR exercise.
They have been arguing that the NPR will lay the groundwork for NRC, even though Union Home Minister, Amit Shah has made it clear that the two exercises have no commonality.
In the state of Maharashtra, the Congress and the NCP- both constituents of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition, are making all possible attempts at stalling the National Population Register (NPR), even when NPR exercise was conducted in the UPA era too, and endorsed by top UPA leaders like P Chidambaram.
Demonising the NPR exercise, Assaduddin Owaisi also emoted, “We are ready to take bullets in our chests but we will not show our papers. We are ready to take bullets in our chests as we love our country.”
The fear-mongering and rumouring against the NPR is once again creating a sense of cynicism and even tensions of the kind that the same ecosystem of left-liberal activists and opposition parties had fuelled when the CAA was passed by the Parliament.
The passage of CAA in the Parliament was followed by intense anti-CAA violence across the country and the root cause behind such violence was the fears and rumours against the Amendment legislation.
The effect of such misapprehensions against the NPR is already visible. According to recent reports, a three-member polio vaccination team was brutally thrashed and taken hostage in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh by local residents, who mistook the polio vaccination team to be NPR surveyors.
The incident really brings to light the kind of effect that intense fear-mongering against the NPR has created. They have also made collecting census data more difficult. The opposition parties have managed to portray a bogeyman out of an innocuous public exercise, that is, the National Population Register (NPR).