Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are sweeping through India, with 13 people killed by the police until Friday evening. To combat this, the rattled Union government put in place unprecedented curbs on the right to assembly and protest, even as the police have used extreme force on protestors. However, in some cases, the government has made some conciliatory noises.
On Thursday, for example, the Union government put out a Q&A on the NRC.
Ironically, the Union government document itself presents claims that challenge Indian law. In fact, most egregiously, parts of the document directly contradict Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statements on the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens.
Here is Scroll.in’s factcheck of the document.
Claim #1: CAA-NRC not linked; NRC won’t only target Muslims
This claim directly contradicts public statements made by Union Home Minster Amit Shah on several occasions.
Scroll.in had first reported in April how linking the two was actually explicit BJP policy during the Lok Sabha elections. By linking them, the BJP wanted to signal that only Muslim would have to undergo an National Register of Citizens – Hindus would be excluded since the Citizenship Amendment Act has a religious criteria that marks safe all non-Muslim illegal migrants.
Why did the BJP adopt this strategy? The reason was the difficulties the saffron party facing in breaking through West Bengal.
In Assam, the BJP had supported the National Register of Citizens exercise ordered by the Supreme Court. But the outcome of the National Register of Citizens actually ended up hurting the BJP, since the many of the people excluded were allegedly Hindu Bengalis. Given that the BJP’s politics revolves around Hindu identity, this was a significant blow. (The BJP has since announced that it will scrap the Assam National Register of Citizens.)
Meanwhile in West Bengal, the Trinamool picked up this fact to attack the BJP. The Trinamool asked if the Assam National Register of Citizens had targeted so many Hindu Bengalis, what if the same happened in their state? With large numbers of Bangladeshi Hindu migrants in West Bengal, this line of attack had immediate resonance.
To dig itself out of this hole, the BJP started to link the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. “Here, we first want to bring in the Citizenship Bill and identify refugees. They will be given citizenship,” Mohit Ray, head of the BJP’s Refugee Cell in Bengal had told Scroll.in. “Only then will we conduct an National Register of Citizens to identify infiltrators. This will avoid the problems of Assam, where everyone had to go through the process.”
This fact, that the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens were linked and that only Muslims would need to undergo the latter was then repeated by Amit Shah in West Bengal dozens of times.
It is this notion, that only Muslims would need to go through the arbitrary National Register of Citizens process since it is linked to the Citizenship Amendment Act, which is now the main cause of panic in the community.
Claim #2: No all-India NRC has been announced
Amit Shah has actually announced on numerous times that there will be an all-India National Register of Citizens. In fact, during the Lok Sabha debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill on December 9 itself, Shah forcefully declared, wagging his finger at the chair, “Maan ke chaliye, National Register of Citizens aane wala hai.” Take it as a given: the National Register of Citizens is going to come.
The legal framework for an National Register of Citizens already exists in the form of the 2003 Citizenship Rules.
In fact, not only has Amit Shah announced that there will be an National Register of Citizens, his government has even begun work on it. An investigation by Scroll.in has revealed that work on the first step to an National Register of Citizens, a National Population Register – a door-to-door data collection drive – has already begun.
Claim #3: No need for documents relating to one’s parents for NRC
The government’s document makes a claim that contradicts Indian law.
Currently, Indian law is based on citizenship less by birth and more by blood. Even if a person is born in India after December 3, 2004, she will only have Indian citizenship if both his parents are Indian or one is Indian and the other is not an illegal migrant. The criteria for anyone born in India between July 1, 1987, and December 3, 2004, is that at least one parents needs to be Indian. It is only before July 1, 1987, that a person born in India is Indian, irrespective of the citizenship status of his parents.
Thus, for a person born after July 1, 1987, he will have to legally prove the citizenship status of either one or both parents. As a result, the government’s clarification makes little sense.
In fact, Assam’s National Register of Citizens needed people to prove, with documents, their link with their father or grandfather.
Bizarrely, the government’s Q&A also provides itself an escape clause, by saying, “However, a decision is yet to be taken on such acceptable documents.” This means any claims it makes with regard to documents can be changed in the future.
Claim #4: Documents like voter cards, passports, Aadhaar are enough for NRC
The Q&A claims that the documents required for the National Register of Citizens is “likely to include voter cards, passports, Aadhar, licenses, insurance papers, birth certificates, school leaving certificates, documents relating to land or home or other similar documents issues by government officials”.
This directly contradicts a statement by Union Home Minister Amit Shah just two days back. On Tuesday, Amit Shah, in a media interview stated that Aadhaar, voter card and other government documents do not prove citizenship. “These do not decide citizenship,” said Shah. “And Aadhaar does not decide citizenship at all.”