A group of former civil servants and academics have urged the chief ministers of states not ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party to not implement the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.
Among those who signed the letter are former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Deb Mukharji, literary scholar Ganesh Devy, writer Githa Hariharan, biographer and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Rajmohan Gandhi, academics Romila Thapar, Prabhat Patnaik and Neera Chandhoke, and social activists Yogendra Yadav, Harsh Mander and Prashant Bhushan.
The public figures urged the non-BJP chief ministers to join the collective effort towards “civil disobedience” as it would not be enough for only citizens to boycott the proposed nationwide citizenship test.
The National Population Register is the first step towards creating an all-India National Register of Citizens, which would identify undocumented immigrants. “Only if enough number of non-BJP state governments agree to do this will we be able to stop the proceedings of a highly divisive agenda,” the signatories said. “This will be the federal pushback with the assertion of the constitutional rights of state governments, in the form of a unique civil disobedience by the state governments.”
The public figures also appealed to the 19 chief ministers, including the ruling party’s allies such as Nitish Kumar of Bihar, Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya and EK Palaniswami of Tamil Nadu, to follow Kerala’s example and challenge the Citizenship Amendment Act in the Supreme Court.
“If these are not struck down, the only path for the states to take is to disobey the Union government, even at the risk of dismissal,” they added. “There is no other way to prevent the destruction of the Constitution”.
Meanwhile, Shantha Sinha, a former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Children, in a related statement questioned the commission’s decision to ask the police to take note of the “misuse of children in anti-government protests” at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh locality, and send them to counsellors.
On Tuesday, the national child rights body had asked the district magistrate to submit a report on the matter within 10 days. The commission’s Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said the order was based on viral videos purportedly showing children saying things such as “the prime minister will throw us out of the country” and “the home minister will send us to detention camps if we don’t show him documents”.
Shantha Sinha and child rights activist Enakshi Ganguly pointed out that children have the right to participate and be heard in all matters concerning them. “This is enshrined in the Constitution of India as a fundamental right and complemented by the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child as well as the national policy for children,” the statement added.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11 last year and notified by the Centre on January 10, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people died in last month’s protests against the law in BJP-ruled states – 19 in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka.