NEW DELHI: India wants to extend a National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the whole country in an attempt to identify illegal residents in the country.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah emphasized the need to weed out those who have been living in the country illegally.
Participating in a discussion in New Delhi on Thursday, Shah said: “We had promised to the people of the country in our election manifesto that we will introduce the NRC not only in Assam but all over the country and make a register of the country’s people. For others (illegal immigrants) action would be taken as per law,” said Shah, who is considered to be the most powerful minister in Narendra Modi’s Cabinet.
“I believe that the people have given their views in 2019 general elections because I myself raised this issue,” said Shah.
The home minister added: “I firmly believe that there is not a single country where anyone can just go and settle. I ask you, can you go and settle in America? No, you cannot settle. Then how can someone else can settle in India. It is very simple to understand.”
India’s northeastern state of Assam implemented a register and released the final list of citizens on Aug. 31. More than 1.9 million people were found to be stateless citizens in the state.
The exercise, which took more than five years, was mired in controversy, with Muslim minorities blaming the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for targeting them and deliberately leaving out their names from the final list. A Delhi-based civil society group United Against Hate in its fact-finding report this week found that the whole NRC exercise was faulty and “it’s only purpose was to declare as many Muslims foreigners as possible.”
Muslims also feel left out because the Citizenship Amendment Bill that the BJP has promised to bring to Parliament promises to give citizenship to illegal Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, whose names are missing from the NRC, but no such promise has been made to the minority community.
“Muslims in Assam whose names are missing from the list are really worried about their fate but no such anxiety can be seen on the faces of Hindus. The reason is that Hindus feel that the government will bail them out through the Citizenship Amendment Bill,” said Nadeem Khan of United Against Hate.
After the release of the NRC list in Assam a call to introduce a similar exercise has been made by other BJP-ruled states such as Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, where sizable Muslim populations live.
The BJP is also demanding that a similar exercise should be held in the state of West Bengal.
“We don’t need NRC in West Bengal,” said the Mamta Bannerjee, the chief Minister of the state and the leader of the regional party, Trinamool Congress (TMC).
She asserted that the “NRC is nothing but an attempt to divert the attention of the people from the ongoing economic crisis in the country.”
She met Amit Shah in New Delhi on Thursday and said that “I raised the issue of NRC with the home minister. Lives of people are now uncertain in Assam. Several Hindi, Bengali and Gurkhali speaking people have been left out of the NRC in Assam.”
Dr. Afroz Alam, a political scientist of Hyderabad-based National Urdu University, says that “the problem is not with the idea of the NRC but the intention and implication of the preparation of a citizenship list.”
Alam told Arab News: “The politics is how to sensationalize the idea of NRC so as to create a fear psychosis among the targeted community so that electoral dividends can be reaped out from it.”
Alam said: “This is a populist measure to polarize the voters by targeting a particular minority community.”
The political analyst said: “By bringing in Citizenship Amendment Bill the BJP is making it clear who is the target of the whole NRC exercise.”
Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Hegde said: “The NRC is a bad idea. This is antithetical to pluralistic and secular spirit of the country. It can affect the unity and integrity of India.”