What’s NPR? Shaped by Kargil & 26/11, Now a Bridge Between CAA-NRC
Video Editor: Sandeep Suman
The Union Cabinet on Tuesday, 24 December, approved funds to the tune of over Rs 3,941.35 crore to update the National Population Register (NPR), officials have said, according to PTI.
Is the NPR connected to the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC)? Does the NPR have a link to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act?
Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah, in an interview, asserted that NPR has no link to National Register of Citizens (NRC) and will not be used for a future NRC.
While Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted that there is no link between the NPR and NRC, Supreme Court Advocate, Gautam Bhatia, and independent researcher, Srinivas Kodali explain NPR’s link with NPR, CAA and how its origins lie in the Kargil War of 1999 and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008.
How is NPR Linked To CAA?
The upcoming NPR exercise will require residents to state the date and the place of birth of their parents. This is a requirement in the current NPR, and one that was not a part of the previous NPR exercises, conducted in 2010 and 2015.
“This is of crucial significance and to understand this, let’s look at the Citizenship Act (one that is subject to amendment by the CAA),” said Supreme Court advocate Gautam Bhatia.
Section 3 of Citizenship Act says that those born after 1 July 1987 will have to prove that one of their parents is an Indian citizen. However, those born after 2003 must prove that one parent is an Indian citizen and the other is not an illegal immigrant.
The NPR forms the base for the creation of a future NRC. The NPR will create a list of all the residents of the country, based on which the NRC will seek to identify those who are not residents.
“What I want to emphasise is that the clear overlap between what the Citizenship Act prescribes as a requirement of becoming a citizen on one hand and what this new requirement of the NPR prescribes, that overlap is identical,” Bhatia added.
Is the NPR Linked to NRC?
“There is no link between National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), I am clearly stating this today,” Shah told ANI, in an interview on Tuesday evening.
However, multiple documents from 2014, including answers given in Parliament and the same issued by Press Information Bureau (PIB) appear to contradict the claims made by Shah. Following are the official releases that state NPR as the “first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC).”
23 July 2014: Former Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, replying to B K Hariprasad in Rajya Sabha said, “The government has now decided to create the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) based on the information collected under the scheme of NPR by verifying the citizenship status of all individuals in the country.”
26 November 2014: Rijiju, once again, reiterated the aforementioned point in Rajya Sabha in response to a question by Dr T N Seema. “The NPR is the first step towards creation of National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) by verifying the citizenship status of every usual residents.”
21 April 2015: A press release by Ministry of Home Affairs iterated that the “logical conclusion” of the NPR is the creation of NRIC. “It has been decided that National Population Register (NPR) should be completed and taken to its logical conclusion, which is the creation of National Register of Indian Citizen (NRIC) and National Identity Cards would be issued to citizens by verification of citizenship status of every usual resident in the NPR.”
NPR’s Origin Story
The NPR had a staggered take-off and it was the war in Kargil in 1999 and the attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that pushed the need for an identity mechanism of Indians to distinguish them from outsiders.
“Even though we did pilots on it, India never bothered to implement it until the Kargil War of 1999 when the Pakistani military men have entered India in civilian clothes. India realised we could not identify Indian citizens or foreigners without identity cards. So, this is when national identity cards were proposed,” said Srinivas Kodali, an independent researcher.
“During a conference of chief ministers on internal security in 2001 National Population Register was pushed and it was decided that India will adopt the Multipurpose National Identity cards where every individual will be supplied with a smart card and biometric collected,” Kodali added.
“Then again in 2008 we went through a major terrorist attack on 26/11 in 2008. So, suddenly India realised we were unable to identify fishermen from among Indian residents...So we start implementing the National Population Register and start providing every fisherman with a national identity card,” Kodali said further.
Also Read : NPR Explained: Why It’s a Stepping Stone to NRC