All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi on Wednesday asked the Unique Identification Authority of India how many Muslims and Dalits were among those it had asked to prove their citizenship. This came a day media reports said the government body issued notices to 127 people in the city earlier this month for allegedly obtaining the Aadhaar card on “false pretenses”. Scroll.in could confirm the identities of three of the 127 people. All three are Muslim. The notices were issued even though Aadhaar is proof of residency and not citizenship.
In response to the media reports, the unique identification authority clarified that the notices had nothing to do with citizenship. It said that according to Telangana Police these individuals are “illegal immigrants” and not qualified to have an Aadhaar card.
“As per the Aadhaar Act, such Aadhaar numbers are liable to be cancelled,” the Aadhaar authority tweeted. “Therefore, the RO [Regional Office] Hyderabad has sent notices to them to appear in person and to substantiate their claims for getting an Aadhaar number.” The government body said the people under the scanner were initially asked to appear before a deputy director on February 20. However, the scrutiny was postponed to May as the respondents need more more time to collect the original documents that they had submitted for obtaining Aadhaar.
Owaisi told Telangana Police to “stop asking for Aadhaar during your ‘search and cordon’ operations”, pointing out they were not legally permitted to do so. The parliamentarian said the words used in the notices were “verification of citizenship”.
Owaisi wondered whether the Aadhaar body would suspend its deputy director for issuing the summons. He accused the government agency of abusing its powers and not following due procedure. He said the Unique Identification Authority of India has the power to investigate certain cases of Aadhaar being granted incorrectly, but not the power to ask for proof of citizenship.
Owaisi said the the identical notices issued to the three people did not mention if a preliminary inquiry had been conducted. The summons also did not specify what “false pretenses” had been used to obtain the cards.
Under the Aadhaar Act, 2016, Aadhaar numbers are linked to an individual’s residency, not citizenship. All residents of India, including foreign nationals, are eligible for Aadhaar if they have been residing in India for more than 182 days before applying to enroll with the Unique Identification Authority of India.
The notices were issued at a time protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which was passed in December, and the proposed National Register of Citizens are going on across India. The law 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. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.