There is no discussion on a nationwide NRC or National Register of Citizens right now, Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized today, two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to contradict him on the controversial subject at the core of protests across the nation.
“There is no need to debate this (pan-India NRC) as there is no discussion on it right now, PM Modi was right, there is no discussion on it yet either in the Cabinet or Parliament,” Amit Shah told news agency ANI.
The Home Minister’s clarification today comes after days of violent protests across the country against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the NRC. The National Register of Citizens, or NRC, meant to target illegal migrants, was carried out in Assam earlier this year and left out 19 lakh people. Many of them are now in detention centres. The opposition alleges that along with the new citizenship law, NRC can be used to target Muslims.
Asked whether better communication from the government would have helped calm the protests, Mr Shah said: “I have no hesitation in admitting that there may have been a communication gap.”
On Sunday, PM Modi had said at a rally in Delhi that there was no talk of a nationwide rollout of the NRC. “I want to tell the 130 crore citizens of India that since my government has come to power, since 2014, there has been no discussion on NRC anywhere. Only after the Supreme Court’s order, this exercise was done for Assam,” said the PM. “Lies are being spread. There are leaders who told in TV interviews that NRC across India will involve such heavy expenses, but I want to say why you are you wasting your mental energy in something that is not even there? (Jo hai hi nahi usme kahaan itna dimag khapa rahe ho rey),” he added.
The comments were instantly compared with Amit Shah’s multiple assertions in parliament and outside about NRC being applied to the “whole country”. Even on November 20, Mr Shah had said in parliament: “NRC will happen in the entire country and at that time this will be implemented in Assam as well. And I once again want to make it clear that people of any religion do not need to be scared.”
Setting the record straight on a string of controversial subjects, Amit Shah said there was no link between the NRC and the National Population Register (NPR) approved by the government today. “I am clearly stating this today,” he said in the interview on a day the government cleared a Rs 3,941 crore exercise to upgrade the population list NPR.
“NPR is the register of population on the basis of which schemes are made. NRC asks people on what basis they are the citizens of the country.”
The Home Minister said there was a basic difference between the two processes. “The two processes are not linked. The NPR data cannot be used for NRC,” he said.
“There should be no fear in the minds of any citizen, especially minorities, our Muslim brothers, that NPR data will be used for NRC. Some people are spreading rumours, they should not do it.” Mr Shah also said no one would lose their citizenship in the NPR.
However, the government has admitted multiple times in the past that the NPR is in fact the first step to the nationwide NRC process. The Census of India website, in its FAQs clearly states: “It is compulsory for every citizen of the country to register in a National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) as per Section 14A of the Citizenship Act 1955 as amended in 2004. The NPR is the first step towards preparation of the NRIC.”
The NPR would be the basis for deciding beneficiaries of various government schemes, according to the Home Minister. “Those who are opposing the exercise are doing a great disservice to the poor,” said Mr Shah.
With critics dubbing the NPR as the first step towards the NRC, at least two states have stopped the population register — Bengal and Kerala. “I will talk and appeal to them that no politics should be done on this,” Mr Shah said