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Opposition Points Out Times When Govt and Its Ministers Said NPR is First Step Towards NRC

The home ministry’s own annual report for 2018-19 said the NPR is the first step towards the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens.


Updated:December 24, 2019, 8:38 PM IST
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Opposition Points Out Times When Govt and Its Ministers Said NPR is First Step Towards NRC
A protest banner against the NPR, NRC and the CAA during the ongoing nationwide agitation. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The government’s claim that it has no plans as of now for an all-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise on the basis of data that be collected during the updating of National Population Register (NPR) is at odds with what the union home ministry as well as its ministers have previously said, opposition leaders have pointed out.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar in a press meet on Tuesday denied the government has said NPR will be the basis for NRC, after the Cabinet gave its approval for updating the population list. "NPR will be used as NRC we have never said, never meant," he claimed.

But opposition leaders, including CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Congress leader Ajay Maken, were quick to dig out instances when the ministers had themselves linked the two and said that NPR will create the way for NRC.

The Congress sought to corner the government on the issue, claiming that the Home Ministry’s annual report has said it is a first step to the NRC. The party said the government cited the ministry's reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha stating the same and alleged that the BJP government is now caught in a trap of its own making.

"Once again the BJP government is caught in a trap of their own making. 2018-19 Annual Report of the Union Home Ministry clearly states NPR is first step to NRC. Also in 2014, former MoS Home Ministry Kiren Rijiju replied to a question in Rajya Sabha, stating the same. Who's lying now," the Congress asked on its Twitter handle.

While Yechury posted a screenshot of what the then minister of state for home affairs had said in Parliament in 2014 on the NPR and NRC, Maken referred to what the home ministry’s own annual report for 2018-19 said on the issue.

“NPR=NRC. How much more will the Modi government lie and mislead the people? It was stated clearly on the record in the Rajya Sabha by this government, that the National Population Register is the base document from where the NRC work will start,” the Left leader tweeted.

“The government has now decided to create the National Register of Indian Citizens based on the information collected under the scheme of NPR by verifying the citizenship status of all individuals in the country,” then MoS (Home Affairs) BK Hariprasad had informed the Rajya Sabha on July 23, 2014.

Maken, on the other hand, pointed to what the annual report of the union home ministry said on its page 262: “The National Population Register (NPR) is the first step towards the creation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) under the provisions of the aforementioned Statute.”

The statute it refers to is the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, through which the BJP had laid the legal groundwork for the NPR and the NRIC during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

The gazette notification of July 31, 2019, that stated that NPR will be updated had also stated that it will be done “in pursuance of sub-rule (4) of Rule 3” of the above mentioned citizenship rules. While Rule 3 is the concept of NRIC (National Register of Indian Citizens), its sub-rule (4) provides for "Preparation of the National Register of Indian Citizens".

At the Cabinet briefing, another such instance was pointed out to Javadekar by a journalist, when then minister of state for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju, had told the Parliament on November 26, 2014: “The NPR is the first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) by verifying the citizenship status of every usual residents.”

Yet, Javadekar maintained that the government has never said NPR will be used as NRC, and then refused to answer any more questions on what has previously been said in Parliament.

The controversy over the NPR comes amid the nationwide protests against the proposed NRC exercise as well as the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, which for the first time has made religion a criterion to obtain Indian citizenship.

The CAA gives non-Muslim refugees expedited citizenship, and has sparked fears that an NRC done in the backdrop of it, will render only Muslims in India stateless.

The government has sought to allay those fears, and on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there is no talk of nationwide NRC, contrary to what home minister Amit Shah had said in Parliament in the Winter Session.

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