Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on Saturday criticised the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Population Register in the state Assembly, saying he also does not have his birth certificate, IANS reported.
Rao suggested that the Centre should introduce a national identity card for citizens instead of implementing the controversial provisions, according to Hindustan Times. Referring to the NPR exercise, the chief minister expressed concern that people were being asked to produce birth documents of their parents to prove their citizenship.
“Honestly speaking, I don’t have my birth certificate,” he added. “If I am asked who I am in this country, what should I say? How do I prove? I was born in my native village, in our own house. There were no hospitals then; so, I don’t have birth certificate.”
The National Population Register – a list of “usual residents” – is scheduled to be updated simultaneously with the house-listing phase of the decennial Census exercise from April 1 to September 30. “Usual residents” are those who have stayed at a place for six months or intend to stay there for the next six months. The Centre has argued that the National Population Register has nothing to do with the National Register of Citizens and is part of the Census. However, the NPR has been described as “the first step towards the creation of NRC”. On December 24 last year, the Cabinet approved funds of Rs 3,900 crore to update the population register. The NRC is a proposed nationwide exercise to identify undocumented migrants.
Intervening during a discussion on the motion of thanks to the governor’s address in the Assembly, the chief minister recalled that people used to get horoscopes prepared by priests and it was treated as birth certificate at that time. “There is no official stamp on it,” he added. “Even today, I have my birth star document. It is with my wife. Except for that document, we don’t have any other documents. Should I die, if I am asked to bring my father’s birth certificate, when I myself don’t have one?”
Rao said it is unreasonable to expect the marginalised sections of the society to have birth certificate, when he does not have it despite coming from a wealthy family that owned 580 acres of land. “Having born in such a big family, I don’t have a birth certificate,” the 66-year-old leader said. “How will Dalits, STs [Scheduled Tribes] and poor people have the birth certificates? If they ask for all these details today, where to get them from? Why this huge turmoil in this country? What we suggest is to introduce a national identity card or something else instead.”
KCR, as the chief minister is popularly known, said India is losing its respect in the world because of the Citizenship Act. “The United Nations is discussing, international assembly is discussing,” he added. “A lot of negativity about the country has already been created. How can we all keep quiet to such things that harm the reputation of the country? We will definitely oppose.”
He added that the House will thoroughly debate the matter and pass a resolution against the law to send a strong message. “No civilised society will accept a law which keeps out people of one particular religion,” Rao said. “The very first sentence in the Constitution is without any religion, caste and creed. But, if they say exclude a particular religion, then that is not acceptable to us.”
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act have been underway across the country for months now. The amendments, notified on January 10, provide 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.