The Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA), in a written reply to Lok Sabha on Tuesday, February 4, said that the government has not yet taken any decisions to implement a nation-wide National Register of Citizens(NRC).
"Till now, the government has not taken any decision to prepare National Register of Citizens at the national level," said Nityanand Rai, Minister of State for Home Affairs.
However, MHA's statement is in stark contrast to Union Home Minister Amit Shah's several statements in Parliament where he ascertained that NRC will be implemented across the country.
It says "TILL NOW, the government has not taken any decision"— Aman Wadud (@AmanWadud) February 4, 2020
Legal foundation of NRIC is Sec 14A of the CitizenshipAct & Citizenship Rules 2003
Govt can anytime notify implementation of NRC
NPR will start from 1st April
Just a matter of notification to convert NPR into NRC https://t.co/qnYoHHZI9W
Amit Shah's Repeated Statements On Nation-Wide NRC
At an election rally in West Bengal on April 11, 2019, Shah said, "We have promised in our manifesto that once Narendra Modi government comes to power in 2019, we will implement National Register of Citizens in the entire country." The same was tweeted by Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)official twitter handle, which was later deleted.
He repeated the statement at another election meeting on April 22.
First, we will bring Citizenship Amendment Bill and will give citizenship to the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain and Christian refugees, the religious minorities from the neighbouring nations.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) April 22, 2019
Then, we will implement NRC to flush out the infiltrators from our country. pic.twitter.com/w7yeDf5qcn
At a rally in Bongaon, West Bengal on May 1, 2019, he said, "The CAB will come, all refugees will be given citizenship, and after that, a National Register of Citizens will be formed. Refugees do not have to worry. Infiltrators will surely have to worry."
First we will pass the Citizenship Amendment bill and ensure that all the refugees from the neighbouring nations get the Indian citizenship. After that NRC will be made and we will detect and deport every infiltrator from our motherland. pic.twitter.com/oB2SlBaQ0j— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) May 1, 2019
In yet another election rally in Jharkhand in December, Shah had said that NRC will be rolled out before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Shah's statements on NRC, which recieved thunderous applause from his followers, clearly seemed to be a favourite topic for our Home Minister to garner support in his election rallies.
Shah had reiterated his statements in Rajya Sabha twice in July 2019. "The NRC is part of the Assam Accord and was also in (BJP's) election manifesto based on which the government has come to power. The government will identify illegal immigrants living on every inch of the country's soil and will deport them as per international law," Shah said.
Barely three months ago, in November, he repeated his stance on NRC and said, "The Assam exercise was carried out under a Supreme Court order. NRC will be carried out across the country, will be done in Assam again at the time, no one from any religion should be worried."
A look at BJP's election manifesto for General Elections, 2019, will tell you that a nation-wide NRC was indeed promised by the BJP. In page 11 of their 43-page-long manifesto, BJP had said, "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."
It further added, "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."
So, Who's Lying?
This is not the first instance when the BJP government has tried to take a step back from their statements on NRC.
Soon after the Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) was passed in December, protests erupted across the country, not only against CAA but against the divisive policies of the BJP government as well.
The pressure on the BJP government grew so much so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly contradicted the Home Minister's statements. On December 23, while addressing a huge gathering at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, PM Modi had said that there has been no discussion on NRC since BJP came to power in 2014 and that it only followed the Supreme Court directive to implement it in Assam.
"We did not make it(NRC), nor did we bring it to the Parliament or announce it," he had said. Well, there clearly seems to be a serious lack of communication between Modi and his right-hand man Amit Shah.
The 130 crore Indians have no connection to the CAB. A lot of lies are being spread about NRC as well.— BJP (@BJP4India) December 22, 2019
It was made during the Congress regime. Where were the protesters then? We did not make it, nor did we bring it to the Parliament or announce it: PM Modi #DilliChaleModiKeSaath
Since then, disassociating themselves with NRC seems to be the stand taken by the government. Even today, there is a serious lack of clarity on the implementation of NRC and the Home Ministry has failed to shed light on any of the aspects.
On questions of the timeline of a nationwide NRC and how it would put additional burden on citizens, the Home Ministry had said: "questions do not arise."
Meanwhile, it becomes important to note that the National Population Register(NPR) is slated to be updated between April and September 2020, while the Census will be conducted from February 9-28, 2021.
The Home Ministry, on a number of occasions, has said that NRC and NPR are linked. In the Annual Report of the Ministry of Home Affairs for the year 2018-2019, it states that the "National Population Register (NPR) is the first step towards the creation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC)." Kerala and West Bengal have halted the NPR updation process fearing that the data would be used for the NRC exercise.
According to a The Indian Express report, the BJP government, on at least nine occasions, had stated that NRC will be conducted based on NPR data. However, due to widespread criticisms, the BJP government has taken a U-turn on these statements as well.
In December last year, the Home Minister himself said that NRC and NPR are not linked. "NPR is a register of population and NRC is a register of citizens. There is no link between the two, and they have different purposes. NPR will also not affect anyone's nationality. Even if somebody's name is missing from NPR, even then his citizenship will not be threatened," he had said.
In a reply to a separate question on NPR on February 4, MHA had said that no document will be collected for the pre-Census updation of the National Population Register (NPR). "During the exercise of updation of National Population Register, no verification is done to find individuals whose citizenship is doubtful," the Home Ministry said.
So, do the MHA's latest statements prove that the obligations of the nationwide protests have caught up with the Home Ministry too? Has the BJP government really backtracked from its promises of a nation-wide NRC? Or is it just a ploy to curb the backlash BJP has been facing since the new Citizenship Act came into effect?Also Read: Cheating Case Against PM Modi, Amit Shah In Ranchi Court Over ₹15 Lakh Promise