Issued by the Joint Forum Against NRC, Kolkata
Video courtesy The Wire
Rattled by the upsurge in popular protests across the country against the passage of the Unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 in parliament, Prime Minister Modi has accused the anti-NRC and anti-CAA protesters and the opposition parties of spreading “rumours and lies”. The assertions made by Mr. Modi in Ramlila Maidan (December 22, 2019), however, are brazen falsehoods which must be exposed and rebutted in public interest.
Modi says: “NRC in Assam was initiated only because of the Supreme Court Order. No discussion on nationwide NRC has been held within the Government and the matter has never been brought to the Parliament.”
Rebuttal: The BJP Manifesto for the 2019 LS elections states under the section Combating Infiltration (p.11):
There has been a huge change in the cultural and linguistic identity of some areas due to illegal immigration, resulting in an adverse impact on local people’s livelihood and employment. We will expeditiously complete the National Register of Citizens process in these areas on priority. In future we will implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country. (Emphasis Added)
In his address to the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament on June 20, 2019 President Ram Nath Kovind stated:
Illegal infiltrators pose a major threat to our internal security. This is leading to social imbalance in many parts of the country, as well as putting a huge pressure on limited livelihood opportunities. My Government has decided to implement the process of ‘National Register of Citizens’ on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration. Security along the border will be further strengthened to prevent infiltration. While on the one hand, Government is working to identify the infiltrators, on the other, it is also fully committed to protecting the victims of persecution due to their faith. In this regard, efforts will be made to amend the Citizenship Act while protecting the linguistic, cultural and social identities.
On July 31, 2019 the Union Home Ministry issued a Gazette Notification (see below) stating that the Central government has decided to prepare and update the “Population Register” in pursuance of Rule 3(4) of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. As per the Citizenship Rules, 2003 the preparation of the National Population Register or NPR is the first step towards the creation of the “National Register of Indian Citizens”, i.e. NRC. The Home Ministry notification stated that house-to-house enumeration for gathering information relating to all usual residents shall be undertaken between April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2020.
How could this notification be issued without any discussion in Government? The Union Home Ministers has categorically stated on several occasions, both inside and outside parliament, that the nationwide NRC will be implemented only after the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Is it believable that he has been acting on this matter without the knowledge of the Prime Minister?
The truth is that the Modi government had not only considered the Supreme Court mandated NRC as a welcome solution to the problem of “infiltration” in Assam, but they had also committed to implement the NRC “in other parts of the country”. It is only after the exclusion of 19 lakh plus persons from the Final NRC in Assam on 31st August, 2019, out of which approximately 14 lakh turned out to be Hindus, that the BJP made a U-turn and started questioning the NRC process. It is the Modi government which had linked the CAB, 2019 to the NRC by promising that the Hindus among the 19 lakh NRC-excluded will be granted citizenship once the amendment is passed.
Modi says: “The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. Those opposing CAA 2019 are mixing up ‘refugees’ and ‘infiltrators’ from neighbouring countries…There are no Detention Centres in India”
Rebuttal: What PM Modi is clearly trying to obfuscate is that 19 lakh plus persons have already been excluded in the Assam NRC, out of which around 5 lakh are Muslims. Going by the Modi government’s declared intent on enacting the CAA, 2019, while the 14 lakh Hindus among the NRC excluded will become eligible for Indian citizenship, the 5 lakh Muslims among the NRC-excluded would not qualify. That is because Muslims have been deliberately kept out of the list of religions mentioned in the CAA 2019. If this is not discrimination on the ground of religion, what is it?
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” The exclusion of the Muslims from the relief being sought to be provided by the CAA, 2019 to the NRC-excluded in Assam, is a prima facie violation of Article 14. Don’t the citizens of India, including the Indian Muslims, have the right to protest against such a communal and discriminatory law which violates a basic tenet of the Constitution?
PM Modi now talks about mixing up of “refugees” and “infiltrators”, but forgets to mention that the mix-up was initiated through the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2003 enacted under the Vajpayee government. It was this law, piloted by the BJP, which categorised everyone who has entered India without valid passports and visa, including the millions of post-Partition refugees, as “illegal migrants”. Under the 2003 citizenship law, even the children born in the refugee families were forbidden from obtaining Indian citizenship by birth, because their parents were deemed as “illegal migrants”.
The way the Modi government has tried to address this self-goal is by enacting the CAA 2019, where an arbitrary list of neighbouring countries, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has been chosen to grant citizenship to religious minorities from those countries. This begs the question why other neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar and China, all of which have witnessed minority persecution and outflow of refugees, have been left out of the legislation? Moreover, why have the victims of “religious” persecution only been considered for citizenship and not those who have suffered persecution on the grounds of linguistic or ethnic identity, like the Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka? Refugees from East Pakistan during the 1971 conflict, which led to the formation of Bangladesh, were persecuted because of language, not religion. Why should Bengali Hindus of East Pakistan be considered “refugees” while Bengali Muslims as “infiltrators”, in the 1971 context?
Moreover, how can the 1 lakh plus Gorkhas or the Biharis, excluded by the Assam NRC, apply for Indian citizenship under the CAA 2019, because none of them have originated from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Bangladesh? Would the Bengali Hindus among the NRC-excluded in Assam be asked to show proof of “religious persecution” under the CAA 2019? If so, what kind of proof? These are the relevant questions that PM Modi must answer rather than raving and ranting against the opposition and supposed “urban naxals”.
PM Modi is also suffering from selective amnesia, as far as Detention Centres in India are concerned. Replying to Starred Question # 103 on November 27, 2019 the Minister of State for Home Affairs stated the following:
As informed by the State Government of Assam, as on 22.11.2019, 988 foreigners were lodged in six Detention Centres in Assam. From the year 2016 up to 13.10.2019, 28 detenues have died either in the detention centres or in hospitals where they were referred. [Source: https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/Questions/ShowQn.aspx]
How can PM Modi not have the knowledge of these Detention Centres when he had himself promised to “finish” them after forming the government at the centre, while addressing an election rally in Silchar on February 22, 2014:
“The Assam Government cannot rise over votebank politics. The way they have abused human rights in the name of detention camps is appalling,” said Shri Modi. He also spoke of the sacrifice of Arjun, and said, “Arjun did not die for himself. He died for the sake of lakhs of people suffering in detention camps. After forming the government we will finish the detention camps.” [Source: https://www.narendramodi.in/2014-elections-mark-the-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-congress-india-will-become-congress-mukt-shri-narendra-modi-in-assam-6004]
PM Modi is brazenly lying today because he knows he has failed to keep his promises.