The West Bengal government on Monday stayed all work related to the preparation and update of the National Population Register in the state, reported PTI. The decision comes amid violent protests across the state over the amended Citizenship Act.
“No activity regarding NPR may be taken up without prior clearance from the government of West Bengal,” read an order issued by the Home and Hill Affair Department Census Cell, according to PTI. “The order is issued in the interest of public order.” The letter was sent to all the district magistrates and commissioners of Kolkata and Howrah Municipal Corporations.
The NPR is a register of residents of the country that will contain demographic and biometric details. The central government has decided to prepare the NPR between April 2020 and September 2020. The exercise is conducted at the local, sub-district, district, state and national levels. The data collected during NPR will be used when the National Register of Citizens will be rolled out across the country. The NPR was first prepared in 2010 and updated in 2015.
On Monday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee led a massive protest march against the amendments, and vowed not to implement the legislation in the state. “As long as I am alive, we will not implement NRC and CAB,” she had said. “They can dismiss our government if they want. We will not surrender.” Banerjee also asserted that “no one will be ousted from the state”.
The Trinamool Congress said the decision was temporary amid the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. “It is because the Citizenship Act has generated a panic among citizens,” an unidentified party leader told PTI. “So it has been decided any work regarding NPR might further aggravate the situation.”
The Opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist) though welcomed the stay. Mohammad Salim, a Politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), called the government’s decision “a victory of the movement organised by Left parties, rights organisations and the civil society that mounted pressure on the state government”, reported Hindustan Times.
However, the decision did not go down well with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is making major inroads into the state. “The NPR was done for the purpose of census, under the National Census Act,” said BJP state Vice President Jay Prakash Majumdar. “What the state government is doing is unconstitutional.”
BJP’s state unit President Dilip Ghosh claimed it has become “a fashion” of the TMC to oppose everything. “She [Banerjee] doesn’t want NPR to happen because her intention is to convert Bengal into Paschim [West] Bangladesh,” he told News18. “The chief minister’s only agenda is to appease Muslim voters and she hardly cares about anyone else in Bengal. She only worried about her chair.”