The Centre faced strong criticism from Opposition leaders for denying any links between the National Population Register and the contentious National Register for Citizens with Congress, TMC leaders and activists pointing to official documents stating the opposite.
The government on Tuesday approved nearly Rs 12,700 crore for carrying out the NPR exercise along with the Census 2021.
On Tuesday, protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act continued in various parts of the country, including in Delhi, Assam, parts of Karnataka and Telangana. In Delhi, scores of university students accompanied by activists and citizens marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar. In Assam, people came out in thousands to participate in the rallies called by the All Assam Students Union (AASU).
Making a U-turn from its earlier statements, the Uttar Pradesh Police said that a youth died last week during protests in Bijnor after the police fired in self-defence. Kanpur police said that it opened fire in the air but nobody was injured.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who were on their way to meet the kin of a youth killed during violence last week, were stopped from entering Meerut by the UP police, who cited Section 144.
Cabinet clears NPR
The Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the proposal for conducting the Census 2021 at a cost of Rs 8,754.23 crore and updating the NPR at a cost of Rs 3,941.35 crore.
Briefing reporters, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar claimed that the NPR, to be carried out along with the first phase of the Census 2021 from April to September next year, has no relation with the NRC. "There is no relation (of NPR) with the NRC (dur-dur tak NRC se koi sambhand nahi hain)," he said.
However, official documents, including replies by NDA ministers in the Parliament, clearly states that the NPR is a precursor to a nationwide NRC.
Javadekar said that while updating the NPR, the government will not seek any document from the people nor any biometric data. "Whatever the citizens will give, we will accept in the form of self-declaration," he added.
According to the official website of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner "the objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country. The database would contain demographic as well as biometric particulars".
Responding to a volley of questions on the NPR, Javadekar said the exercise was first initiated in 2010 during UPA regime and the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had distributed cards to those who were registered under the NPR. The NPR was prepared in 2010 under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955, and Citizenship Rules, 2003, which was subsequently updated in 2015 by seeding it with Aadhaar, according to an official release. "It was a good initiative... we are only updating it after 10 years," he said.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, Home Minister Amit Shah, too, made similar claims. He said that the information obtained through NPR cannot be used for NRC as the two are separate processes. He also claimed that the Union Cabinet has not even discussed NRC.
Claiming there is no link between NPR and NRC, Shah also said that the NPR will not affect the nationality status of any citizen of the country. "NPR will not affect anyone's nationality. Even if somebody's name is missing from NPR, then too, his citizenship will not be threatened," the home minister said.
Opposition leaders were quick to point out that the government had previously stated in the Parliament that the NPR was the first step to conduct NRC.
The Congress tweeted an excerpt from the 2018-19 Annual Report of the Union Home Ministry, which "clearly states NPR is first step to NRC."
TMC's Derek O' Brien shared a reply given by MoS Home Kiren Rijiju in the Lok Sabha in 2015, which says that the information collected through the NPR will serve as the "mother database for the NRIC (also known as NRC) by verifying the citizenship status of each and every resident". The TMCL leader, according to PTI, also said that BJP is trying to "fool and cheat" the people of the country.
Protests against CAA continue across the country
The government's claims and the Opposition's counter-claims came at a time when protests against the CAA continued across the country. In a show of solidarity, scores of students from universities in Delhi, accompanied by activists and citizens, marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar on Tuesday voicing their protest against the amended Citizenship Act.
The march commenced around 12.45 pm amid cries of 'Halla Bol', 'Chhatra Ekta Zindabad', 'Jai Bhim', and anti-government slogans by scores of protesters from different universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Delhi University.
They marched carrying cutouts of BR Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, Zakir Hussain, freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan and even the Preamble of India, as they voiced their dissent against the new citizenship law, which has led to nationwide protests. The march proceeded towards Jantar Mantar without police permission and saw even women with their young daughters participating in the protest.
Around the time the march was proceeding peacefully to Jantar Mantar amid a heavy deployment of security personnel, over 70 student and youth organisations across the country came together under an umbrella body to intensify the protest against the new law, the proposed nationwide NRC and the NPR.
On New Year's Day, members of the National Young India Coordination and Campaign and those supporting the movement will take a pledge to save the Constitution. They also coined a slogan: "New Year's Resolution — Defend Constitution".
Addressing a press conference in Delhi, they demanded the withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act before the 71st Republic Day next year.
Meanwhile, the Jamia Teachers' Association (JTA) requested all the citizens including the Jamia fraternity to suspend their protests, against CAA-NRC, on the occasion of Christmas on Wednesday.
Assam take to streets against CAA
In Assam, tens of thousands of people hit the streets at the call of AASU, Congress and several other groups to peacefully protest against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The largest gathering was in Dibrugarh, the hometown of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The town observed a total and spontaneous bandh to express solidarity and shops, banks and business establishments remained closed.
Another large rally was organised by AASU in Tezpur in which the gathering vowed to continue the agitation till the Act is repealed. A huge gathering was reported from Golaghat town also.
The Congress, which kicked off an 800-kilometre 'padayatra' from Sadiya to Dhubri on Sunday, reached Naharkatiya with thousands of people taking part in it. The peaceful protest continued across all the districts in the Brahmaputra valley.
Protests in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal
Huge demonstrations against the amended citizenship law also continued in parts of Tamil Nadu like Salem and Krishnagiri. Hundreds of people gathered in Salem to stage a demonstration against the CAA, with the protestors demanding the withdrawal of the controversial legislation. Similarly, a huge protest demonstration was held by various Muslim bodies in Krishnagiri against the CAA. No untoward incident was reported from anywhere, PTI quoted police as saying.
In Kerala, Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa, who is visiting temples in the state was shown black flags by some activists of Student Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Youth Federation of India who also attempted to block his car in Kannur district. Earlier in the day, the pro-Congress Kerala Students Union (KSU)and Youth Congress workers also waved black flags at the convoy of Yediyurappa, who also encountered a similar protest on Monday in Thiruvananthapuram by the YC workers over the detention of Kerala-based journalists in Mangaluru last week.
Kerala Police said they removed the activists and around 20 had been taken into custody.
Protests also continued at some places in Telangana with different groups holding rallies. A huge rally was taken out at Nirmal town against the CAA and NRC by different organisations, political parties and students organisations, while the 'United Muslim Action Committee', comprising various Muslim organisations, including AIMIM, held a protest meeting against CAA at Mahabubnagar.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee led a protest march against the CAA and the proposed NRC from Swami Vivekananda statue at Bidhan Sarani to Gandhi Bhavan in Kolkata.
UP Police admits Bijnor youth died in police firing
The district police in Bijnor said on Tuesday that a youth died when they fired in self-defence last week, contradicting an earlier claim by the state DGP that no one was killed in police firing during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Kanpur police said that it had opened fire in the air, but nobody was injured.
Bijnor's Superintendent of Police (Rural) Vishwajeet Srivastava on Tuesday said a 22-year-old man was killed when a policeman opened fire while facing a violent mob in Nahtaur area.
"On 20 December, after Friday prayers, a violent mob attacked a police station and snatched the pistol of sub-inspector Ashish Tomar," he said.
A constable was fired at when he tried to get it back. "When the constable opened fire in self-defence, it hit 'upadravi' (troublemaker) Suleiman and he died," the SP added.
Another man, Anis, died in firing from the mob in the district, the SP said.
Bijnor Superintendent of Police Sanjiv Tyagi said police used minimum force against the protesters. "They put children in the front and resorted to slogan shouting, stone-pelting and arson," he said.
Meanwhile, Kanpur‘s Senior SP Anant Deo Tiwari admitted that some policemen had loaded their weapons and opened fire, as shown in video clips on news channels and social media.
He said the firing was in self-defence.
This is for the first time that the state police has accepted that its personnel opened fire during the violent protests in the state. At least 17 people have been reportedly killed in the protests.
Pro-CAA rallies in Maharashtra, Gujarat
Protest marches were also held in support of the CAA. In Maharashtra's Latur, hundreds of activists of Hindu organisations along with BJP members and leaders took out a foot march in support of the new citizenship law and the proposed NRC. Similar protests were also organised in Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat. At an event at Sabarmati Ashram, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani slammed the Congress Congress for opposing the new citizenship law and claimed that Hindus in other countries have nowhere to go.
However, during his speech, Rupani cited factually incorrect figures of how the Hindu population in Pakistan has fallen since 1947.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 25, 2019 00:25:46 IST