In one of its recent reports, The Hindu has deliberately propagated misinformation regarding the proposed National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC or NRC) and its prelude, the National Population Register (NPR). In a story published over the response provided by the Registrar General of India (RGI) to a Right to Information (RTI) request filed by The Hindu regarding the proposed date of the NPR and Census 2021, misinformation is fed to the readers regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA 2019). Responding to The Hindu’s RTI on NPR and Census 2021, the RGI had informed that the questionnaire for the NPR is “being finalised” and the date of the Census 2021 is “not available”.
In this The Hindu story, Vijaita Singh writes: “There are apprehensions and fears that the CAA, followed by a country-wide NRC, will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the proposed citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship. (sic)” This is absolutely misleading for any reader, as it reaffirms the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) propaganda that the CAA 2019 will safeguard the non-Muslims from the NRC, while we have shown earlier why the CAA 2019 is a hoax with no provision for citizenship for the non-Muslims.
Did The Hindu suddenly cite the CAA part in this story by mistake? What had the CAA to do with The Hindu’s RTI on NPR and Census 2021? Was this a deliberate attempt to connect the NPR as a part of the CAA 2019 and validate the unfound concerns about the amendment, which was brought to woo the non-Muslim victims of partition by the BJP?
Since the last one year, the mainstream press has joined hands with the BJP to project the CAA 2019 as an anti-Muslim legislation, which, they claim, will disenfranchise the Muslims. As The Hindu’s RTI on NPR and Census 2021 had nothing to do with the CAA 2019, still it was cited as there is a clear attempt to link it with the NPR and thereby with the NRC, to show that the amendment will save non-Muslims from disenfranchisement.
The anti-NRC movement in West Bengal has splintered over one section’s adamant standpoint calling the CAA 2019 anti-Muslim, which helped the BJP in projecting the movements against the amendment as anti-refugee and pro-Muslim. Such projection helped the BJP to consolidate its support base by polarising the broad section of Hindus using Islamophobia and xenophobia about “illegal infiltrators”.
While The Hindu’s RTI on NPR and Census 2021 sought information regarding the date when the door-to-door NPR and Census 2021 exercise will start, it didn’t ask a very important question that has remained out of the purview of the citizenship discourse until now, the question of Aadhaar linking with the NPR. Neither the press nor those fighting the draconian NRC exercise proposal are vocal about the Aadhaar linking with the NPR, the first step towards the NRC.
Conceptualised as part of the NPR according to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card) Rules, 2003, the Aadhaar is a database with biometric information of all-natural residents of India and will be helpful for the RGI to prepare an NRC, by validating the data according to Articles 5, 6(a) and (b) of the constitution and as per the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Government of India started the NPR process long back in 2010, and it never concealed the fact that the Aadhaar is a part of the NPR exercise.
It clearly stated that the Aadhaar is no proof of “citizenship” but only for normal residents, which would help prepare the NRC. This means the Aadhaar is the basis of sorting out who among the “residents” are “citizens” according to the amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955, and who all are in the “illegal migrant” category as per the CAA 2003’s provisions.
When AKS Vijayan asked on May 5th 2010 whether the Aadhaar authorities have ensured that the “illegal migrants” are not provided with Aadhaar, the former minister of state in the ministry of planning and parliamentary affairs V Narayanasamy categorically stated before the Parliament that no such instruction is given as the Aadhaar will prove only identity and not citizenship.
Answering to Amarnath Pradhan on whether “illegal migrants from neighbouring countries” are enrolled in the Aadhaar programme, former minister of state for parliamentary affairs and planning Rajeev Shukla told the Parliament on December 11th 2013 that the Aadhaar is no proof of citizenship but a unique ID for the residents of the country, and “resident” is based on the definition of “population register” as provided in rule 2(I) of the Citizenship Rules, 2003.
Replying to BJP’s Prakash Javadkar, the then minister of state for planning, Dr Ashwani Kumar told the Parliament that 136.88m Aadhaar numbers were generated until March 1st 2012. Dr Kumar also informed that the Central Government’s RGI is creating the NPR to issue the NRIC cards. Then, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was carrying out the NPR exercise through the Aadhaar on a multiple registrar model and the RGI was one among them. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Hindutva fascist regime overhauled the Aadhaar-NPR linking process by updating the NPR in 2015.
According to a report in The Wire, approximately 600m Aadhaar numbers have been seeded with the NPR database during the 2015 update. Later, this number seems to have reached 1.24 billion, according to another report by The Wire According to an RGI notice, F.No.9/5/2019/NPR (Pt) dated July 19th 2019, the following extra details are required for the completion of the NPR updation as per the requirement of preparing the NRC:
- Date and place of birth of parents:
- Place of last residence
- Passport number if Indian passport holder
- Aadhaar number
- Mobile number
- Voter ID card no.
- PAN number
- Driving licence number
Now under severe pressure, the Modi regime has taken a step back on the NPR but didn’t discard the proposed format with the extra details. This can be collected only during the home visit or during Aadhaar updation for any purpose. While The Hindu’s RTI on NPR and Census 2021 didn’t get a clear date from the authorities, it’s certain that the government will have most of these details collected through back-end system and will only do the door-to-door visit to validate the data and complete the NPR for the preparation of the NRC. The presence of the CAA 2019 doesn’t play any role. It can’t even safeguard the non-Muslim poor, especially those who belong to the Dalit community, the tribal people and backward caste Hindus, from the wrath of the NRC.
It’s high time that the question of the Aadhaar linking with the NPR is raised throughout the country and a movement is organised to force the government to shelve this anti-people, privacy-intruding Aadhaar system so that the people can be freed from the surveillance state’s domination. To do this, the demand for repealing the Aadhaar law must be raised.
It’s no wonder that The Hindu’s RTI on NPR and Census 2021 has dealt with the obvious question to assure people that the NPR is not coming soon, but it’s a total misrepresentation of facts. Most importantly the people must realise why and how the fascist forces are hoodwinking them and they must not cease their movements against the Modi regime’s and the BJP’s obnoxious agenda of disenfranchising millions of poor Indian people. The struggle can only grow by including the demand to end the Aadhaar tyranny in India and destroy the monstrous anti-democratic surveillance tool owned by the Modi regime.