'No plan to hold nationwide NRC on religious lines'

 Union Home Minister Amit Shah. (PTI photo)

Amid the renewed pitch of BJP in election season on carrying out nationwide NRC, Union Home Ministry has on Wednesday informed Parliament that there was “no” decision by the government to conduct NRC exercise across the country on religious lines.

Responding to a question by Trinamool Congress MP Ahamed Hassan ) whether it is a fact that Government has decided to conduct National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise across the country on religious lines, Minister for State for Home Nityanand Rai replied with a monosyllable “No”.

To a supplementary question about the details of the amount allocated and expenditure incurred for planning NRC across the country in the last three years, Rai said in the written reply “does not arise”.

Regarding Hassan’s further queries whether the government has identified sites for detention centres across the country for the exercise and if so, the state-wise detention centres to be constructed in the next five years, the minister merely said: “detention centres are established by States / UT Administrations as per requirement.”

In recent months, the BJP has made a vigorous pitch for nationwide NRC with the BJP chief and Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday announcing in an election rally in Jharkhand that a nationwide NRC will be rolled out across the country by 2024, to flush out all illegal infiltrators from India. This was days after he announced the same for the first time on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday last, claiming that the government will identify illegal immigrants and infiltrators living on every inch of the country's soil. At the same time, the BJP has been assuring that genuine citizens have nothing to fear from NRC at the national level.

This Wednesday, the Union Cabinet gave its nod to Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which seeks to grant citizenship to grant Indian nationality to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who had entered India before December 2014, by amending the Citizenship Act 1955. This effectively means that Muslims entering India as migrants from these countries get excluded from citizenship.

BJP's experiment of carrying out NRC in Assam where 19,06,657 people could not be eligible for inclusion in the final NRC published on August 31st, ran into rough weather with criticism of a large number of Bengali Hindus having been exclulded from the list. The CAB is expected to take care of this. 

Replying to another question regarding whether the government has statistics on number of illegal foreign immigrants living in West Bengal, the ministry in a written answer said since the illegal immigrants enter into the country including the state of West Bengal without valid travel documents in a "clandestine and surreptitious manner", "accurate data regarding number of such immigrants living in the State of West Bengal is not available."

In West Bengal, where the BJP had won a whopping 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 general elections, Trinamool Congress won all three assembly seats in bye-election last week, the first poll in West Bengal after NRC in Assam. BJP is making illegal immigration of Muslims a big issue in West Bengal polls.

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