Bharatiya Janata Party ally Janata Dal (United) said on Thursday that it cannot support the National Population Register exercise till the Centre allays all apprehensions that it is the “first step towards the National Register of Citizens”, The Indian Express reported. Janata Dal (United) chief and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had last week made clear his opposition to the NRC.
“Even though Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the NPR is not linked to NRC, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijju said that NPR is the first step to NRC,” Janata Dal (United) Spokesperson KC Tyagi told The Indian Express on Thursday. “There has been a lot of confusion, which needs to be cleared and all the apprehensions need to be allayed.”
The Union Cabinet had on Tuesday approved funds of over Rs 3,900 crore for the updation of the NPR, on the same day that Shah claimed the register was not linked to the NRC. This register, which is linked to the census and is a list of “usual residents” in the country, is described by the Census of India as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”.
Tyagi said the government’s new statements on the NPR-NRC link are contradictory to what it had said in the past. “We are questioning the very validity of the NPR,” he added. “ The JD(U) is not going to support it till the government’s representatives, especially Union home minister clarifies its stand with more transparency.”
Tyagi said the Congress has also alleged that the questionnaire for the new NPR is different from the one its erstwhile government had prepared in 2010. The Janata Dal (United) spokesperson said that the party has no problem if the NPR is only used for the 2021 Census, but it should not be clubbed with the NRC or be a precursor to it.
Janata Dal (United) National Vice President Prashant Kishor tweeted on Thursday that Shah’s claim that there has been no discussion on the NRC was nothing but a “tactical retreat” in the face of nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC. “It is a pause and not the full stop,” he tweeted. “Government could wait till Supreme Court judgement on CAA. A favourable court order and the whole process will be back.”
The Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress Party, which are not BJP allies but have supported many laws in Parliament, including the Citizenship Act, have also said they will not permit an NRC their states. Former BJP ally Shiv Sena said earlier this week that the exercise to update the register would not be held in the state and no detention camps would be built.
On Wednesday, BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal said it could rethink its support for the saffron party if changes are not made to the amended Citizenship Act, to include Muslims. The party also said that it was against the NRC.
There have been massive protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRC in the country over the last two weeks, resulting in the deaths of at least 25 people. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, so long as they have entered India on or before December 31, 2014. However, it exempts Muslims from its purview.
On the other hand, the National Register of Citizens is an exercise meant to distinguish between undocumented migrants living in India from genuine Indian citizens. One such exercise, carried out in Assam earlier this year, led to the exclusion of 19 lakh people.