No decision has been taken by the central government on the preparation of a nation-wide National Registry of Citizens (NRC) so far, the Ministry of Home Affairs told the Lok Sabha in a reply to a question.
Further, in a separate reply, the ministry has also stated that the upcoming National Population Registry will not require any submission of documents, and that it will only focus on the updating of demographic details. These replies come amid prolonged protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which became a law on December 12.
In the wake of anti-CAA protests, state governments such as those of Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra and Kerala, among others, have declared that they would not implement a potential nation-wide NRC in their states. Opponents of the CAA think that the law, when combined with the NRC, could render poor and undocumented Muslims without citizenship.
Telengana Rashtriya Samiti MP Nama Nageswar Rao and Lok Janshakti Party MP Chandan Singh asked the government on potential plans on an NRC, a potential timeline for the exercise, and how it plans to take state governments into confidence on the same.
"Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), at the national level", said the reply, stopping short of ruling out such an exercise. The reply was answered in the Lok Sabha today, and can be found here.
The reply is in line with the constant stance maintained by the government in defence of the CAA and the NRC, where they state that the government has not yet announced any NRC. They also maintain that the CAA is nothing but a humanitarian law passed to expedite the granting of citizenship to persecuted non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
This reply also comes amid Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is at the forefront of implementing these exercises, vowing to implement a nation-wide NRC by the next Lok Sabha election in 2024. He, and the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party, have also maintain on at least 5 occasions that the CAA is the precursor to a potential NRC at an all-India level.
No Documents Required During NPR
Agitations against the NRC have also extended to opposing the NPR, which is scheduled to start from April this year, and will be carried out through September. The NPR is an exercise that intends to record the "regular residents" of an area through door to door surveys. This exercise too is being opposed by states who fear that data collected by the NPR will feed into a potential nation-wide NRC.
In Lok Sabha, Adoor Prakash and Revanth Reddy (Congress) and Prasun Bannerjee (Trinamool Congress) questioned the government on:
- If the government was aware that states like Kerala had put work of the NPR on hold
- If the government has finalised the questionnaire of the NPR
- If the upcoming NPR would feed into a potential NRC
The government, in its reply, has said that it is in contact with all states with regard to the implementation of the NPR.
Later, the Ministry goes on to state, "The demographic and other particulars of each family and individual are to be updated/collected during the exercise of updation of NPR. No document is to be collected during this exercise."
Finally, the Ministry reiterates its stance on the NRC, using the same wordings, "Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), at the national level", neither confirming nor denying the use of the NPR towards an NRC.
The reply can be seen here.
BOOM has previous written about a letter from the NPR, a document that is accepted as a Know-Your-Customer (KYC) document in financial institutions, but nobody knows how to obtain it.
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