India has reached out to countries around the world about the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.
“We shared that this was a matter internal to India,” the ministry’s spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. “We emphasised that the Act [Citizenship Amendment Act] just provides expedited consideration for Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities, already in India, from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. It does not alter the basic structure of Constitution.”
The foreign ministry said that India’s missions across the world had been instructed to share information on the amended citizenship law with the host governments. Kumar reiterated that a report in The Hindu on the Centre’s decision to finalise a National Population Register form used during a trial last year was “factually incorrect”. The newspaper reported that the form seeks details of the respondent’s “place of birth of father and mother”. Scroll.in had reported on this on December 17.
Data for the NPR is likely to be collected from April to September along with the decennial Census exercise. However, states like West Bengal and Kerala, have issued orders to stop work on the register amid concerns that it will be used to identify undocumented migrants during the National Register of Citizens exercise. The Census of India website describes the NPR as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”.
The Citizenship Amendment Act has triggered protests across the country after it was passed in Parliament on December 11. The legislation provides Indian citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, who have entered the country on or before December 31, 2014. The law has attracted widespread criticism as it excludes the Muslim community from its purview. Several non-Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states have refused to implement it under their administration.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that those protesting against the amendments to the Citizenship Act should expose the activities of Pakistan instead. The prime minister added that said Pakistan was formed on the basis of religion and religious minorities were persecuted there.