The Karnataka unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday tweeted a video of Muslim women holding up their voter identity cards outside a polling booth in Delhi, and told them to “keep the documents safe” for the National Population Register exercise. The warning came despite repeated assurances by the Narendra Modi government that documents would not be required during the National Population Register process.
The population register will be a list of “usual residents” – those who have stayed at a place for six months or intend to stay there for the next six months. The exercise to update the register will be carried out across the country along with the house-listing phase of the Census 2021 from April 1 to September 30, 2020.
As first reported by Scroll.in, the NPR is the first step to creating an all-India National Register of Citizens, which will identify undocumented migrants residing in India. The government’s critics fear that the NRC along with the Citizenship Amendment Act, which now has religions as a criterion, will be used to target Muslims, who are excluded from the citizenship law’s ambit. Till now, West Bengal and Kerala have suspended all work related to the NPR, while five Congress-ruled states are mulling similar action.
However, the government has repeatedly denied claims of links between the NPR, the NRC, and the citizenship law, and claimed that the population register is part of the Census.
Earlier this week, the government told Parliament that no document would be collected during the NPR exercise. “The NPR updation will be undertaken through house to house enumeration for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual,” said Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai. “The respondent has to provide the information true to the best of his knowledge and belief. Aadhar number is collected voluntarily.”
In January, in response to a story in The Hindu, the Ministry of Home Affairs had said: “The story ignores government’s stated position that no individual will be required to submit any document to any authority or enumerator visiting his/her household for NPR survey.”
The Karnataka BJP’s salvo at anti-Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC protestors came amid the party’s vitriolic communal election campaign in Delhi centred around the demonstrations at Shaheen Bagh, which has emerged as the epicentre of the nationwide opposition to the Modi government’s actions. The neighbourhood has a sizeable Muslim population, and the protests are being led by women.