Patna: Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, on Monday said the government may consider the widespread demand to remove the questions on date and place of birth of a respondent’s parents from the National Population Register.
"Even I do not know my date of birth. Do I cease to become a citizen on that account? I had told the Home Ministry that these things will cause confusion. Now the ministry has amended the forms", he told reporters here.
Paswan also claimed that it was at his insistence that the Union Home Ministry agreed to "amend" the NPR forms wherein columns like those pertaining to places of birth of parents had triggered fears that the exercise might be a precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Notably, the Union Home Ministry had recently stated that people could "skip" the aforementioned columns after a request to the effect was made by many states, not ruled by the BJP, that these be "dropped".
The patriarch of key BJP ally Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) sought to dispel misgivings about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Population Register but underscored that the Constitution guaranteed "right to freedom of expression" which ought to be respected while dealing with protests.
The Union Minister, who holds Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution System portfolio, however sought to allay fears that people not possessing required documents could lose their citizenship and Muslims whom the CAA allegedly discriminates against would suffer the most.
"No government can dare to snatch away any persons citizenship. It will lead to an upheaval. Any regime whichseeks to do so will be torn apart by the media. This is simply not possible", he said.
However, he added "we owe our rise in politics to the 1974 students movement. Now, students, the youth have their own sentiments. We cannot do much about that. But it is true thatthe police often goes overboard in enforcing rule of law", said Paswan, who is the founder of Lok Janshakti Party an NDA constituent.
"I do not hold an uncharitable view of the protests in Jamia Milia Islamia or JNU. People associated with these do keep meeting me over issues. We have cut our political teeth with freedom of speech and restraint in action as a cardinal principle.
"All these protesters including the women of Shaheen Bagh they all enjoy the right to freedom of expression", Paswan added.
Notably, the BJP the mightiest constituent of the NDA - has adopted a belligerent stance against the country-wide protests with top leaders like Union Home Minister Amit Shah dubbing these as a "conspiracy" hatched by those aiming at "disintegration" of the country.
The LJP founder, however, sought to defend the CAA, which seeks to fast-track grant of citizenship to non-Muslim refugees, who might have landed on the Indian soil by the year 2014, from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
"Unlike India, which is not a Hindu state, the three countries are Islamic republics. The Act aims at granting citizenship to refugees, as distinct from infiltrators, who may have fled because of religious persecution", he said.
Asked about the rationale behind leaving out Muslims, Paswan said "it is not that doors of Indian citizenship have been slammed shut on Muslims from any country. But when the Amendment sought to help minorities in three Islamic countries, Muslims could not have been brought under its ambit".
The LJP leader who was previously with the UPA sought to know "why did the Congress not raise objections while in power if it really has so much of a problem with NPR?
"Why did it preside over a similar exercise in 2010? And the CAA has come into force after being passed by both Houses of the Parliament, with us (NDA) not having a majority in the Rajya Sabha. In this backdrop, the noise by the opposition parties leaves me bewildered? he asked.