NRC: Drop this insane plan

Union Home Minister Amit Shah during commemoration of 'Samvidhan Divas' in the Central Hall of Parliament in New Delhi, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. (PTI Photo/Shahbaz Khan) (PTI11_26_2019_000157A)

The proposal to create a National Register of Citizens (NRC) for the whole country, announced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah last week, is flawed and misconceived, and is troubling in many respects. Shah has made the announcement at rallies and public forums in the past, but it has now been formally made on the floor of parliament. The need to hold such an exercise on a national scale is not clear, and there is every reason to desist from such a disruptive and disastrous move. Shah also said that the NRC process, which was conducted in Assam recently, will again be held in that state with the rest of the country. It was held in Assam on the orders of the Supreme Court and the court, which had rejected even the request for a re-verification, may disallow that to be conducted again. The government and the BJP have rejected the Assam NRC because it did not go according to their plans. 

The government’s argument for an NRC is political and communal and it cannot form the basis of a citizenship exercise. Such an exercise will only be taken as one directed against Muslims, and the BJP may be aiming to take advantage of its polarising effect, after the Ayodhya campaign has lost its impact. It will disrupt the country and keep the people in fear and uncertainty over a long time. It is unfortunate that the lessons from the turmoil it created in Assam and the fruitlessness of the exercise are lost on the government. In Assam, there was at least a mandate from the 1985 Assam Accord and an order from the Supreme Court to conduct the exercise, and there was a reference date of 1971. There are no such circumstances for a national exercise. 

The government has spent over Rs 1,300 crore on the NRC in Assam and most individuals have spent thousands of rupees on it. Replicating it at the national level would mean spending many thousands of crores. Can the country and people afford it, and to want end? The process created huge hardships and stress in Assam and it will be cruel to unsettle the whole country like that. Proving citizenship for the NRC is a difficult task in a country with poor documentation and it will be an impossible job for many. It is preposterous to ask 130 crore people to prove their citizenship. What will happen to those who are excluded, when it is not known what is to be done even with the 19 lakh in Assam? The government should drop this insane plan. 

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