Actor and politician Rajinikanth on Wednesday claimed that the Citizenship Amendment Act will not affect any citizen of the country and that preparing the National Population Register was essential. This is the first statement on the matter by the popular actor.
“If it [Citizenship Amendment Act] affects Muslims, then I will be the first person to stand up for them,” he told reporters, according to ANI. “NPR [National Population Register] is a necessity to find out about the outsiders.”
On the proposed National Register of Citizens, he said the government had clarified that it had been not been decided upon yet.
Rajinikanth has only spoken once earlier on the matter, but he had stopped short of expressing an opinion on the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens. This was on December 19, as some protests turned violent amid aggressive police action. He had said, “Violence and rioting should not become a way to find solution for any issue. I request the people of India to stay united and vigilant keeping in mind the nation’s security and welfare.”
Another Tamil actor-turned-politician, Kamal Haasan, had said that week as protests erupted that he opposed the new citizenship law and the NRC. A day before, Rajinikanth was asked for his stance by reporters during a film promotional event, but he had said that was not the right platform.
The Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by Parliament in December last year. It 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 28 people have died in protests against the Act since December.
The NRC is a proposed exercise to identify undocumented immigrants. However, its critics fear that the Citizenship Amendment Act, clubbed with the National Register of Citizens, will be misused to target Muslims since the Citizenship Act now has religion as a criterion. After protests began in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there had been no discussions on nationwide NRC.
The National Population Register is a list of “usual residents”. “Usual residents” are those who have stayed at a place for six months or intend to stay there for the next six months.
After Opposition-ruled states objected to questions about the “place of birth of mother and father” in the NPR form, home ministry officials had said that answering those questions were not mandatory. Last month, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said that the disclosure of information during the National Population Register exercise was voluntary.
As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens, which would identify undocumented migrants residing in India. This has led to scepticism from states ruled by parties that are not part of the National Democratic Alliance. Till now, West Bengal and Kerala have suspended all work related to the NPR, while five Congress-ruled states are mulling similar action.