Union home minister Amit Shah said on Wednesday that the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be carried out across the country. The pan-India NRC rollout has been the ruling BJP’s pet project and an issue frequently raised during Parliament and state elections. However, Shah’s statement on Wednesday is a first in the Parliament.
“The process of National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be carried out across the country. No one, irrespective of their religion should be worried. It is just a process to get everyone under the NRC. People from all religions who are Indian citizens will be included. There is no question of any discrimination on the basis of religion,” Shah said replying to a supplementary during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha.
In Assam, updating NRC was carried out as per Supreme Court order, he said and added that when the process will be implemented in the entire country Assam will also be included. One of the reason behind Assam being included again is because 14 lakh Hindus who were found illegal in the list of 19 lakh ‘foreigners.’
If the process to update NRC in 2019, was mandated under the Assam Accord signed between leaders of the Assam Movement and ex-PM Rajiv Gandhi in 1985. A decision to roll out a similar exercise across the country was announced by the government on August 3 as part of its move to prepare a National Population Register (NPR).
The NPR will be a list of usual residents of the country. Once the NPR is completed and published, it is expected to be the basis for preparing the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), a pan-India version of NRC.
“In pursuance of sub-rule (4) of rule 3 of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, the central government hereby decides to prepare and update the Population Register… And the field work for house-to-house enumeration throughout the country except Assam for collection of information relating to all persons who are usually residing within the jurisdiction of local registrar shall be undertaken between the 1st day of April, 2020 to 30th September, 2020,” said a notification issued by Vivek Joshi, Registrar General of Citizen Registration and Census Commissioner.
The re-inclusion of Assam into the exercise will require a gazette notification by the government. Moreover, the office of Registrar General of Citizen Registration, comes under the ambit of the Union home ministry led by Amit Shah.
For the purpose of NPR, a usual resident is defined as a person who has resided in a local area for past six months or more or a person who intends to reside in that area for the next six months or more. However, there is no clarity over what the definition for citizenship will be given by the government.
Even as Shah made a countrywide pitch for the NRC process, West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee assured people she will never allow such a citizen register in the state.
“There are few people who are trying to create disturbances in West Bengal in the name of implementation of the NRC. I want to make it very clear, we will never allow NRC in Bengal. No one can take away your citizenship and turn you into a refugee. There can be no division on the basis of religion,” Banerjee said while addressing a public meeting in Sagardighi in Murshidabad district.
Reacting to the statement, Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, said the state government has requested the Centre to reject the recently published NRC. Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, the BJP leader said even the party has urged the union home minster to dismiss the NRC in its current form.