February 5, 2020 4:30:46 am
WITH PROTESTS against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and proposed National Register of Citizens marking two months next week, the government reiterated in Lok Sabha Tuesday that it has not taken any decision on a countrywide NRC.
It also moved to allay fears over personal data being collected for the pre-Census updation of the National Population Register (NPR) by making clear that no document will be collected during the exercise — and that providing Aadhaar number would be voluntary.
Replying to a written question on NRC, MoS (Home) Nityanand Rai said: “Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare the National Register of Indian Citizens at the national level.”
Flies in the face of past statements
Doubts have persisted given repeated references to NRC, including by Amit Shah. The latest reply in House has formalised PM’s assurance, but is this the final word?
In another reply, this time on the NPR process, Rai said: “No document is to be collected during the updation of NPR…During the exercise of updation of National Population Register, no verification is done to find individuals whose citizenship is doubtful.”
Rai’s statement is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance after the passage of the CAA in Parliament that the government had not discussed the implementation of a nationwide NRC.
On December 22, 2019, Modi had said at the Ramlila Maidan: “Pehle yeh to dekh lijiye, NRC pe kuch hua bhi kya? Jhooth chalayi jaa rahi hai. Meri sarkar aane ke baad, 2014 se aaj tak, main yeh sachh 130 crore logon ke liye kehna chahta hu, kahin par bhi NRC shabd par koi charcha nahin hui hai. Koi baat nahin hui hai (First, see if anything has happened on NRC. Lies are being spread. From the time my government came to power in 2014 till today, I want to tell this truth to 130 crore people of this country, that there has been no discussion on NRC. No talk at all).”
Before this, Home Minister Amit Shah had said on multiple occasions that NRC would be implemented across the country. Even during the debate on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on December 9, Shah said: “We will bring the NRC across the country. Not a single infiltrator will be spared.”
After Modi’s assurance at the Ramlila Maidan, however, Shah said there was no plan for a nationwide NRC yet.
Recently, President Ram Nath Kovind did not refer to the NRC in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget Session Friday. In his previous address, however, the President had said that the “government has decided to implement the process of National Register of Citizens on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration”.
Tuesday’s Question Hour had multiple questions on issues associated with CAA, NRC and NPR. Asked whether the government had made it mandatory to share details of passport, driving licence, Aadhaar and other documents in the NPR, Rai said: “The respondent has to provide the information for National Population Register (NPR) updation true to the best of his knowledge and belief. Aadhaar number is collected voluntarily.”
The passage of the CAA in Parliament on December 11 triggered protests and fears that it would lead to a nationwide implementation of the NRC. It led at least eight Opposition-ruled states to declare that they would not implement the CAA.
Many of these states have also opposed the NPR updation move, prompted by concerns that the central government would use the data collected to implement the NRC. The government is currently in discussion with states over the exercise.
The NPR is slated will be updated between April and September, 2020. The Census will be conducted from February 9-28, 2021.
Replying to another question on whether government would release illegal immigrants belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Parsi and Buddhist communities held in detention centres, Rai said the CAA came into force on January 10, 2020, and the proceedings against these immigrants could abate only after grant of Indian citizenship.
Those covered by the Act can submit applications for citizenship after rules are notified by the central government, he said. “No specific instruction has been issued by the central government regarding release of migrants from detention centres after enacting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019,” Rai said.
Also, with Modi having earlier asserted that there were no detention centres for illegal immigrants anywhere in the country, the government told Parliament that the nomenclature of detention centres had been changed to “holding centres”.
To a question on the foreigners released from detention centres in Assam, Rai told Lok Sabha: “As per information available from government of Assam, the details of detenues released from the Holding Centre (erstwhile detention centre) are as follows…” He went on to list the six centres in Assam from where 761 foreigners had been released in the last three years.
In response to another question, Rai said: “As per information received from government of Assam, the state government has not constructed any detention camp in Assam exclusively to detain those who do not have documents proving their citizenship under the National Register of Citizens.”
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