Home Minister Amit Shah has said in Parliament that people won’t have to submit citizenship documents under the NPR exercise, which begins on 1 April, and no one will be marked ‘doubtful’. After Kerala’s decision not to implement the National Population Register, West Bengal demanding its repeal, and Tamil Nadu putting the exercise on hold, Delhi assembly has passed a resolution against NPR.
ThePrint asks: On NPR, should states trust Home Minister Amit Shah’s repeated assurances?
Unless Amit Shah amends Citizenship Act again, his assurances about ‘doubtful citizen’ provision hold no value
Lawyer, AAP leader
Home Minister Amit Shah has given one misleading statement after another and so has Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But neither has raised the promises made to the public, promises that have not materialised.
With regards to the NPR, we know very little. First, it won’t be like Aadhaar or any Census but rather comprise identity-related information. In fact, the Allahabad High Court recently issued a notice to the central government based on a plea that questioned the exact format of the proposed NPR.
Also, the CAA specifically mentions that anyone who can’t submit papers to prove their citizenship will be declared a ‘doubtful citizen’. Unless Amit Shah amends the Act again, his reassurances about this provision hold no value. He is just practising appeasement politics after the political disarray in Delhi in the last two months.
He is also trying to deflect people’s minds from larger issues like the failing economy, rising unemployment and now the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s like dealing with a hungry child by putting him on top of an almirah. S/he will forget about the hunger and instead demand to be brought down from the almirah.
The bottom line is that Amit Shah’s recent assurances in Parliament are not legal or constitutional. Also, all major non-BJP states like Kerala (and soon Delhi) are rejecting or going to reject the NPR and that is why the BJP is shrinking and losing state after state.
People opposed to Modi-Shah have an unhelpful, often delusional attitude, unwilling to accept anything they say
Baijayant Jay Panda
Vice President & Spokesperson, BJP
First of all, when the Home Minister of the country gives an assurance like this on the floor of the House, it warrants respect. It is not a casual statement but rather an accountable one that should be taken seriously, as with statements by other institutions like the Supreme Court or Election Commission. It should not be seen as a political statement made by a party member.
I have noticed that there is a very unhelpful and often delusional attitude among people who oppose Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. They are unwilling to accept anything the two say even if it comes from a place of rationale. We saw this happen in the case of CAA too.
Even political parties whose leaders favoured the CAA in the past came out opposing it in the public. Former prime minister and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh had supported the CAA amendments in 2003 and has pointedly not contradicted himself in the current debate. However, many of his colleagues have been hypocritical and tip-toed around their leaders’ earlier statements on the CAA.
Also, the NPR is a very different animal from the NRC and the CAA but people often conflate the three. The NPR is not about identifying illegal immigrants, and it is just a register of all residents. Anyone who says Amit Shah’s reassurances about the ‘doubtful citizen’ provision in the CAA is not in line with what the law mandates has interpreted the law incorrectly.
Institutional assurances do matter and one must be rational about government policies.
Amit Shah’s NPR statement not worthy of our trust because BJP leaders haven’t kept their promises in the past
DMK spokesperson and advocate, Madras High Court
The statement of Home Minister Amit Shah is wholly undeserving of our trust because of the track record of similar statements issued by his ministerial colleagues like Nirmala Sitharaman and others. Sitharaman had announced in August 2017 that Tamil Nadu would be exempt from the National Eligibility Entrance Test for a year but this didn’t happen. Similarly, Piyush Goyal’s statements for the Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP) in October 2018 unravelled within a few weeks.
Another reason why people should be sceptical about Amit Shah’s statement is that state assemblies, including those under the control of BJP allies such as Tamil Nadu, have decided to take an unequivocal stand against the NPR. The Tamil Nadu government has announced that it will be putting the NPR on hold. When even the allies of the BJP do not trust the central government, there is no reason to believe the home minister’s statement.
The most shocking part of Amit Shah’s statement has to do with him calling some parts of the exercise ‘optional’ in nature, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Specifically, the 1948 Census Act states that people are legally bound to answer every question put forth by the Census enumerator. It is common knowledge that the Census House Listing process and the NPR exercise are to be held simultaneously. So, Amit Shah has spoken pretty much against the provision of law as laid out under the Census Act.
Words of Prime Minister and Home Minister are supposed to carry weight but Modi and Amit Shah have diluted that
Secretary, All India Congress Committee, In-charge, Chattisgarh
What Home Minister Amit Shah said in Rajya Sabha can’t be taken on face value because people are doubtful of him for three reasons.
First, BJP and its leaders have time and again shown consistency in distorting facts, backtracking from their statements, and diluting what’s been said on various public platforms, constitutional institutions, public rallies and speeches. For example, the BJP-led UP government in 1992 had assured the National Integration Council that it would perform only symbolic ‘kar seva’ on the disputed Ayodhya site, and won’t demolish Babri Masjid. But everyone knows what happened later.
Second, with regards to the NRC, Amit Shah was very clear about implementing the exercise to update the citizens register through a particular “chronology”. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a completely different stand on the NRC.
Third, on various public platforms, in public speeches and at media conclaves, PM Modi has been found to be distorting history and facts. Statements of the prime minister and those holding constitutional posts used to carry weight with people accepting their promises on face value. But it isn’t the case anymore under Modi and Amit Shah.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint