Nine times in Parliament since 2014, the Modi government has underlined that NPR data will be used to verify and construct a NRC.
The new design of the National Population Register (NPR), the denied but furtively proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is roiling the country. As it has become evident the Narendra Modi government is intent on profiling India’s citizens on the basis of religion, the government's woes are mounting. Society is in turmoil, with flares of protest being fired all around us.
It’s unclear how the debilitating debate, now turning into an unforeseen crisis, will end. Further chaos is not obscured from view if the government fails to act wisely. Can it summon that capacity, or does it propose to be mired in hubris arising from the mistaken notion that the voter gave it a reinvigorated mandate last May as it endorsed the BJP-RSS’s polarising ideological agenda?
No sooner had the government sought to put the massive protests by young people across India on the CAA issue (suppressed by the police in BJP-ruled states with violence and communal viciousness) behind it than it has run into the National Population Register-NRC conundrum.
This is because Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s long, rambling, defensive, speech in New Delhi on Sunday strengthened the view that his government was relying on deception, not truth.
The PM denied the government had even discussed the NRC since 2014. This has been shown to be false, with many citing Union home minister Amit Shah's recent speeches in Parliament emphatically linking the NRC with the CAA, and President Ram Nath Kovind referring to the NRC in his address to a joint session of Parliament.
The home minister’s claim on the NPR and NRC in a news agency interview on Tuesday was also shown to be a bare-faced departure from the truth. His assertion that the two are not linked was shown to be incorrect. Nine times in Parliament since 2014, the Modi government has underlined that NPR data will be used to verify and construct a NRC.
Unlike in 2010, the NPR data to be collected now — after the Cabinet gave it clearance Tuesday — seeks biometric data and the date and place of birth of a respondent's parents. This contentious detail feeds into the NRC (as Assam showed) and CAA, giving the new NPR design a sinister feel. The government has argued its proposed NPR is a continuation of the 2010 exercise. False. The NRC's consideration for the country did not exist earlier.
The recent turn of events is sapping the country’s strength. It can sunder us socially and kill the economy, that has already been hit by idiotic policies. People’s confidence is shaken in the elected government. For a democracy, this is a bad sign.
As a remedy, let the government call a special session of Parliament at the earliest to put the record straight on NPR and NRC and convincingly disavow a CAA-NRC link even as the test of the CAA's merit on constitutional grounds is before the Supreme Court.