Understanding the chronology: A few fundamental truths about the CAA, NRC, NPR and all the threads that bind the three together

Unlike in 2010, where the National Population Register did not seek information on the date and place of birth of the parents of an individual, the upcoming data will ask for this data.

Simantik Dowerah December 28, 2019 10:50:00 IST
Understanding the chronology: A few fundamental truths about the CAA, NRC, NPR and all the threads that bind the three together
  • Unlike in 2010, where the National Population Register did not seek information on the date and place of birth of the parents of an individual, the upcoming data will ask for this data.

  • The most important amendment to the Citizenship Act in 2003 was the insertion of the need for the National Register of Indian Citizens, something which is equivalent to the NRC conducted in Assam.

  • The trinity of Citizenship Amendment Act, National Population Register and NRC are not independent of each other.

In October 2018, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav strongly supported the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, even coming up with a 3D formula -- to detect (illegal migrants), delete (names from electoral rolls and other government documents) and deport (to parent country/ies).

Then, with NRC work on in full swing in Assam, under the supervision of the Supreme Court, the BJP had resolved to conduct the exercise on a pan-India basis, the seeds of which were sown 14 years earlier, on 7 January 2004, when, led by prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2003 making key changes to the law that was formulated way back in 1955.

It was for the first time the term "illegal migrant" became part of the law in this amendment. The law states:

(b)"illegal migrant" means a foreigner who has entered into India-(i) without a valid passport or other travel documents and such other document or authority as may be prescribed by or under any law in that behalf; or
(ii) with a valid passport or other travel documents and such other document or authority as may be prescribed by or under any law in that behalf but remains therein beyond the permitted period of time;';

Another important component was the addition of the date 1 July 1987 on the basis of which deciding the citizenship became a factor.

(1) Except as provided in sub-section (2), every person born in India-(a) on or after the 26th day of January, 1950, but before the 1st day of July, 1987 ;
(b) on or after the 1st day of July, 1987 , but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth;
(c) on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, where-(i) both of his parents are citizens of India; or
(ii) one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.
Unlike in 2010, where the National Population Register did not seek information on the date and place of birth of the parents of an individual, the upcoming data will ask for this data.

The most important amendment to this Act in 2003 was the insertion of the need for the National Register of Indian Citizens, which is equivalent to the NRC conducted in Assam.

The law says: "The Registrar General of Citizen Registration shall establish and maintain the National Register of Indian Citizens. (2) The National Register of Indian Citizens shall be divided into sub-parts consisting of the State Register of Indian Citizens, the District Register of Indian Citizens, the Sub-district Register of Indian Citizens and the Local Register of Indian Citizens and shall contain such details as the Central Government may, by order, in consultation with the Registrar General of Citizen Registration, specify."

It also says: "The Central Government shall, for the purpose of National Register of Indian Citizens, cause to carry throughout the country a house-to-house enumeration for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual, residing in a local area including the Citizenship status."

What surprised everyone was when the prime minister claimed that ever since his government first came to power in 2014, no discussions were held on a nationwide NRC. Starting from Union home minister Amit Shah, many BJP chief ministers have reiterated on a nationwide NRC at different points in time. This is what Shah had to say on a nationwide NRC on 1 May this year:

Before that, it was on 23 April when the Union home minister explained the chronology saying the Citizenship Amendment Act will be followed by the NRC.

Notwithstanding these public utterances, Shah, in an interview to ANI, forsook his earlier statement and spoke in support of Prime Minister Modi.

The Union home minister, in his interview on Tuesday, asserted that the prime minister “was right in saying that there has been no discussion” on a nationwide NRC process "either in the Cabinet or Parliament."

However, the home minister himself had told the Rajya Sabha on 20 November that NRC process will be carried out across India. "The process of the NRC will be carried out across the country. No one irrespective of their religion should be worried. It is just a process to get everyone under the NRC," Shah had said, replying to a supplementary during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha.

The utterances made on the Floor of the House assume profound importance as it is taken to be the official position of the government. On 20 June, 2019, President Ram Nath Kovind in his address in a joint sitting of both the Houses of the Parliament also mentioned the government's intention. "My Government has decided to implement the process of ‘National Register of Citizens’ on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration," Kovind said. On 11 April, at an election rally in Raiganj, West Bengal in the run-up to the Lok Sabha Election 2019, Shah had announced, "We will ensure implementation of NRC in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha [sic], Hindus and Sikhs." However, the official BJP tweet carrying this statement was deleted on 19 December. Participating in a programme on Times Now, Shah as recently as 17 December had said that the government is gathering strength for an NRC from Clause 14A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 which came into effect on 3 December 2004 under the UPA government.

On 26 November also, Shah had made it abundantly clear that NRC "will be made for the entire country" for the entire country.

The home minister even went to the extent of asking "if a citizen be registered or not?"

On 18 September, in another programme, Shah had stressed upon the necessity of a nationwide NRC.

It is unclear whether the prime minister's announcement at the Ram Lila Ground in New Delhi was impromptu or if it was planned. The BJP, till then which was seen strongly rooting for a nationwide NRC, appeared to be on a backfoot amid violent protests across the country. The NRC debate only added fuel to fire in an environment which already volatile due to the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act.

Just three days before Modi announced that the government is having no discussion on conducting NRC, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani had firmly put his foot down saying his state will implement both the Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC, The Wire reported.

On 15 September, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar also said that the NRC will be implemented in the state as well.

"We will implement NRC in Haryana," the chief minister had said.

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also appeared positive for a nationwide NRC, ironically a day after Modi had said that the government was not keen on NRC, the Republic reported.

The trinity of Citizenship Amendment Act, National Population Register (NPR) and NRC are not independent of each other. The NPR and NRC are part of the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2003 defines "Population Register" as "the register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area;".

It also says, "The Central Government may, by an order issued in this regard, decide a date by which the Population Register shall be prepared by collecting information relating to all persons who are usually residing within the jurisdiction of Local Registrar.

"The Local Register of Indian citizens shall contain details of persons after due verification made from the Population Register."

The same Act also gives guidelines on the preparation of the NRC saying "The Central Government shall, for the purpose of National Register of Indian Citizens, cause to carry throughout the country a house-to-house enumeration for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual, residing in a local area including the Citizenship status."

The law further adds: For the purposes of preparation and inclusion in the Local Register of Indian Citizens, the particulars collected of every family and individual in the Population Register shall be verified and scrutinized by the Local Registrar, who may be assisted by one or more persons as specified by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration.

Significantly, the Act also deals with those whose Indian citizenship may be doubtful and instructs on the official procedure on how to deal with them.

"During the verification process, particulars of such individuals, whose Citizenship is doubtful, shall be entered by the Local Registrar with appropriate remark in the Population Register for further enquiry and in case of doubtful Citizenship, the individual or the family shall be informed in a specified proforma immediately after the verification process is over."

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