Pushed by widespread protests sweeping across India driven the Citizenship Amendment Bill and National Register of Citizens, the Modi government is on a firefighting spree. Amit Shah, the government’s extraordinarily powerful home minister, appeared on TV interviews on Tuesday promising that “no Muslim of this country will face injustice from these policies”.
On Thursday morning, the Modi government put out advertisements in multiple Hindi and Urdu papers alerting people about “rumours and incorrect information being spread”.
The ad describes the widespread phenomenon of Indians rushing to gather documents to prove their citizenship. The rush, which is largely limited to Muslims, has been triggered by fears of the government preparing a National Register of Citizens to sift between genuine citizens and “illegal migrants” as defined by Indian law.
The ad counters this by saying such an impression is “galat”, wrong. “No nationwide NRC has been announced,” it states. “If it is announced in the future, the rules would be drawn in such a way that no Indian citizen is inconvenienced.” The ad also argues that the NRC “will not disproportionately affect any community”.
Are these claims correct?
Not if you look at what the government told Parliament and what it has already started to do on the ground.
What the government told Parliament
In reality, the BJP and specifically Amit Shah have announced on multiple occasions that an all-India NRC will be drawn up. In fact, during the Lok Sabha debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill on December 9, Amit Shah forcefully declared, wagging his finger at the chair, “Maan ke chaliye, NRC aane wala hai”. Take it as a given: the NRC is going to come.
Moreover, several times, Amit Shah announced that the NRC will not apply to Hindus. In an election meeting in West Bengal on April 11, he said: “We have promised in our manifesto that once Narendra Modi forms government once again, we will implement National Register of Citizens in the entire country. We will remove every single infiltrator from the country. And all the Hindu and Buddhist refugees...we will find each of them, give them Indian citizenship and make them residents here.”
He repeated this claim at another election meeting on April 22.
More recently, on October 1, in Kolkata, Amit Shah announced: “No Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain or Christian refugee – and especially Hindu refugees since their number is large – will be asked to leave India.”
The protests, however, have led to a shift in government rhetoric. What was announced as an unshakeable fact on the floor of Parliament just 10 days ago has now turned into a “rumour”. While earlier religious discrimination under the NRC was openly spoken of by the BJP as part of its electoral strategy in West Bengal, now the same party is claiming that the NRC “will not disproportionately affect any community”.
What is happening on the ground
Not only has the NRC been announced – work on it has already commenced.
The first step of the NRC is the creation of a National Population Register, which collects information from residents of India, as per the terms of the 2003 Citizenship Rules. It it from this data that people of “doubtful citizenship” will be identified. The burden of proof to prove they are not illegal migrants will then be placed on the people thus identified.
The final NRC will then consist of all the people identified using the NPR minus anyone who has not been able to conclusively prove he is not an illegal migrant.
Work on the NPR has begun. Pilot projects were held in August and Scroll.in has learnt that government employees across states are being trained to conduct the NPR.
Thus, not only has the NRC been repeatedly announced by Amit Shah and the BJP, work on it has already started.
For more details, read: Scroll Investigation: Amit Shah’s all-India NRC has already begun – with the NPR