Protest broke in different parts of the country after the amendment of Citizenship Act (Photo Credit: PTI)
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been one the most talked about issues in the country for several weeks now. The passage of the contentious act created tensions in different parts of the country. Starting from Assam, Uttar Pradesh to New Delhi, violent protests erupted, culminating into huge damage of public properties. The Citizenship Act protests, which agitators tout as Anti-Muslim, spread far and wide and prohibitory orders (Section 144) and internet shutdowns have also become the order of the day.
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) aims to amend the definition of illegal immigrant for Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have lived in India without proper documents. According to the act those who have been living here will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. So far 12 years of residence has been the standard eligibility requirement for naturalisation.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens. The register includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955. It was in the year 1951 that the register was first prepared and since then it has not been updated until recently.
Till date, the date was maintained by the state of Assam. However, on November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.
Among the on-going protests, it is observed that the people at large is confused about both the terms and its implications.
According to the Citizenship Rules, notified on December 10, 2003, NPR is ‘the register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area within a ward in a town or urban area. NRC is a register containing details of Indian Citizens living in India and outside India.
The rules further say that 'National Register of Indian Citizens' shall contain the particulars of every citizen i.e:
Name, Father’s name, Mother’s name, Sex, Date of birth, Place of birth, Residential address (present and permanent), Marital status, Visible identification mark, Date of registration of Citizen, Serial number of registrations, National Identity Number.
In the case of NPR, both demographic and biometric data are collected. From the last NPR collected in 2010, certain new categories have been added to the list. These are as follows:
Aadhaar Number (voluntary), Mobile Number, Date & Place of Birth of Parents, Place of Last Residence, Passport Number (if Indian passport holder), Voter ID Card Number, Permanent Account Number, Driving Licence Number.
The Home Ministry said the objective of conducting NPR is to "prepare a credible register of every family and individual living in the country apart from strengthening security and improvement in the targeting of beneficiaries under various Central government schemes"
The National Population Register is not only a drive to list the number of citizens living in India; it would also include a foreigner staying in an area for more than six months. NRC will contain details of only the citizens of India excluding the foreigners staying in India.
The Home Ministry issued a statement saying, “There is no proposal at present to conduct a nationwide NRC based on the NPR data.”
The Supreme Court of India in 2013 mandated the NRC update in Assam. The state has a history of illegal migration, hence the people of the state are protesting only against CAA and not NRC. The Assam Accord, signed by the governments of Assam and India, and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad in 1985, after a six-year mass movement, essentially declared that a resident of Assam is an Indian citizen if she could prove her presence, or an ancestor’s presence, in Assam before March 25, 1971. That is the cutoff date for NRC, which CAA extends to December 31, 2014 to non-Muslim migrants from three countries.
To prove their or their ancestors’ presence before 1971, applicants in Assam had to produce any one of 14 possible documents:
Additionally, if the document submitted is in the name of an ancestor, then another document proving relationship was required to be submitted — such as a ration card, LIC/bank document or an educational certificate that contains the names of the applicant as well as the parent/ancestor.
In its FAQs, the PIB said: “If it is implemented, it does not mean that anyone will be asked for proof of being Indian… Just like we present our identity cards or any other document for registering our names in the voter list or getting Aadhaar Card made, similar documents shall need to be provided for NRC, as and when it is carried out,” it said.
The PIB said there is no compulsion to submit any document by/of the parents. Noting that a decision is yet to be taken on acceptable documents, it said: “This is likely to include voter cards, passports, Aadhaar, licenses, insurance papers, birth certificates, school leaving certificates, documents relating to land or home or other similar documents issued by government officials. The list is likely to include more documents so that no Indian citizen has to suffer unnecessarily.”
In an interview to India Today, Home Minister Shah said CAA is not linked to NRC. “No Indian citizen needs to worry at all, no one will be thrown out. We will make special provisions to ensure that no Indian citizen from minority communities is victimised in the NRC process. But we can’t leave the borders open as well. Countries are not run like that,” he said.
“It is important for everyone to understand that intruders or illegal migrants do not only eat away resources and opportunities meant for Hindus but also Muslims. Not even a single person of a minority who is an Indian citizen will be harmed in the NRC, but not even one intruder will be spared.”