No documents needed for NPR, Shah responds to opposition in Rajya Sabha

Home MInister Amit Shah outside Parliament. (PTI)
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said no citizen would be marked ‘D’ or ‘doubtful’ during the updating exercise of the National Population Register (NPR).

Replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the recent communal riots in Delhi, Shah said no document would be required to be furnished to prove citizenship, and it was not compulsory to provide any information not available with an individual.

The home minister said he wished to allay fear and misinformation being spread among minorities, particularly Muslims, on the issue. He accused Congress leaders of triggering the spiral of hate speeches with their public meeting in Ramlila ground on December 14, a day before the Shaheen Bagh protest started.

The Opposition, however, demanded greater clarity on Shah’s statement on NPR, particularly on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) rules of 2003 that state that the NPR will form the basis for the National Register of Citizens (NRC). 

Shah’s clarification comes in the wake of countrywide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Several state governments, including BJP’s allies in Bihar and Tamil Nadu, have decided not to carry out updating of the NPR with the Census. Shah invited opposition leaders, including Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, for a discussion to answer all their questions on the NPR.

On concerns about violation of right to privacy with the investigators using facial recognition technology to catch those involved in the riots, the minister said only driving licence and electoral data were being used and 1,922 people had been identified. No Aadhaar data was used for the purpose and no privacy guideline of the Supreme Court was flouted, he said.

“I want to set the record straight. No document will be required to be furnished in the NPR exercise. It wasn’t done in the past and it won’t be now. Also, people will be free to provide whatever information they have,” he said.

“No one will be required to give information which is not there,” he said on apprehensions of residence of parents being asked in the NPR and absence of it casting doubts. “No ‘D’ will be marked” for anyone not providing information, he said.

Shah was responding to senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal expressing apprehension of enumerators marking ‘D’ against any an individual not answering all questions in the NPR.

The updating of the NPR is to be done, along with the Census, during six months beginning April 1, with enumerators seeking demographic and other particulars of each family and individuals. There are reports that communities have turned away Census enumerators as they fear the exercise would culminate into preparing an NRC.

While there was no statement from the Congress after Shah concluded his speech, other opposition parties accused the minister of misleading the nation. TMC’s Derek O’Brien said he was not allowed to ask clarifications on the issue.

CPI (M) chief Sitaram Yechury tweeted that Shah had “outlined the ‘chronology’ clearly, not once, twice but umpteen times” on the relation between the CAA, NRC, and NPR. He said Shah’s latest comments were “being made to mislead Indians”. Yechury said the CAA Rules of 2003 “clearly state that the NPR would be the basis for the NRC. The government needs to amend the law and break the link. The chronology is very clear.”  

Shah said: “No one from minority community should have any doubt regarding CAA and NPR.” He said no section of the CAA provides for taking away of citizenship of anyone. Sibal agreed to this but questioned the NPR exercise when Shah gave his clarification.

The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. The data for NPR was last collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of Census 2011.

Shah said 76 per cent of those killed in riots were during Congress rules. Rejecting allegations that the Delhi riots were state-sponsored, he asked why any government would engineer such violence when the world’s most powerful person, US President Donald Trump, was being hosted by the prime minister.

He said there was a deep-rooted conspiracy behind the Delhi riots as foreign money was circulated and thousands of social media accounts were created to fan hatred before violence began. 

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