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Protests Galore
by Proloy Bagchi Bookmark and Share

The Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) has given rise to widespread protests in the country which have sometimes been very violent. Most of the protests appear to have been instigated, very few being spontaneous. The protests held in Assam can be understood as those failing to qualify for Indian citizenship run the risk of being deported to wherever they came from. Elsewhere there does not seem to be any valid ground for protests. The government has on several occasions assured that Indian citizens of any faith have no reason to fear as being citizens they obviously could not be deported anywhere. In many cities simultaneously demonstrations have been held in support of the CAA. All this makes a mockery of a law passed by the Parliament (with overwhelming majority inLokSabha). As BJP, the ruling party at the Centre has failed to garner majority in a few state assemblies the Opposition feels a little strengthened and opposes anything that the Centre proposes even if it has the backing of the law.

Something in this vein is the opposition to the Centre’s decision to build up the National Register of Citizens(NRC). The opposition is baseless as this is mandated by Citizenship Act 1955, as amended in 2003. How can political parties, even those that are governing a few, states, oppose something which is sanctioned by an act of Parliament? Besides, creation of a National Register of Citizens is an activity that is controlled and supervised by the Central Government. The state governments only have to provide the wherewithal for going through the process, financial resources for which are to be made available by the Centre. The states thus have no ground to refuse to allow the Centre to create NRC. If such a thing were to happen it would only mean breakdown of the Constitutional machinery of the country.

One cannot think of any objection by any state government for creation of the register for citizens residing in it. This only would mean that they do not wish to know how many citizens are there in it and how many are non-citizens. The NRC once created surely would help the states to better deliver their services to the citizens eliminating the irregular availing of them by people who are not eligible to do so. Besides, NRC would enable the state to determine the number of non-citizens residing in it, their origin and the purpose for which they happen to be in the state once it is checked with reference to the National Population Register. If NRC is vehemently opposed, as is being done by a few states, especially, West Bengal, it would only mean that they have something to hide. Perhaps, they have infiltrators or illegal migrants who have settled down within the state and are merrily consuming its resources with the blessings of the state and/or its agencies.

In any case, the objections to the creation of National Register of Citizens for the present is pre—mature as the Centre has not moved in the matter so far. One supposes that this will happen after the pan—Indian National Population Register (NPR) that is currently in the works is completed. Some states have even targeted the NPR as well which is not quite understandable. The NPR contains the list of all those who have lived in the country for six months or more and are likely to continue to live for another six months. All such people will be enumerated regardless of whether they are citizens of the country or not. Prepared at local, sub-district level, district, state and national levels it is, in fact, the list of all people – citizens or non—citizens – residing in the country. The NPR is actually a building block of the NRC.

Those who say that it has no linkage with NRC are talking through their hat. Creation of the NPR is also mandated by the laws relating to citizenship and no state can refuse to create it. Those who claim they would not allow NPR in their respective state are only making a political point – just as the Kerala Chief Minister did recently by having a resolution passed in the Assembly against Citizens Amendment Act in a session that was especially summoned for the purpose.

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