New Delhi: A government with a ‘forked tongue’ would be an understatement, if one goes by the varying voices in close succession within the Narendra Modi government’s topmost echelons with regard to a pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC).
On Tuesday, in a written reply to Parliament, Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai, said there were no plans ‘till now” to conduct a pan -India NRC.
Just a few days ago, in his address to the joint session of Parliament, President Ram Nath Kovind, too, skipped mentioning NRC while eulogising CAA and its importance, something which lead to an uproar among the Opposition, hitting Parliament proceedings till now.
The NRC, along with the National Population Register (NPR) and the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have been termed by many as a ‘trident’ or ‘trishul’ being used by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for countrywide polarisation on religious lines, especially prior to elections in some states and during the May 2019 general elections.
Earlier, the Supreme Court-monitored exercise of updating the NRC was carried out only in Assam. The final NRC, a list of Assam's residents published on August 31, 2019, excluded names of 19 lakh people, creating a huge controversy as the majority who were excluded were Hindus.
But, after the Modi 2.0 government got the CAA passed in Parliament during the Winter session in December 2019, peaceful protests and sit-ins have erupted across the country against CAA-NRC-NPR, mainly led by women and youth. However, in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, violence unleashed by the police and subsequent clashes have claimed 23 lives. Meanwhile, the protests continue to gather steam
So, let’s take a look at the ‘chronology’ of statements by the top BJP leadership and the Narendra Modi 2.0 government (which took over in May 2019) on the pan-India NRC. (Notice the flip-flops in just one month – December 2019 – when protests reached a crescendo across the country):
June 20, 2019 -- President Ram Nath Kovind, (Parliament Joint Session): Narendra Modi government is committed to implement NRC “on a priority in areas where the problem of illegal immigrants is rampant”.
November 20, 2019 -- Home Minister Amit Shah, (Parliament): “NRC will be carried out across the country, will be done in Assam again at the time….”
December 2, 2019 -- Home Minister Amit Shah, (Jharkhand Rally): “Today, I want to tell you that before the 2024 polls the NRC will be conducted across the country, and each and every infiltrator identified and expelled.”
December 10, 2019 – Home Minister Amit Shah (Parliament): “Maan Kar Chaliye NRC Aane Wala Hai.”
December 22, 2019 -- Prime Minister Modi, (Delhi Rally): There has been no discussion on implementing NRC in India
December 24, 2019 – Home Minister Amit Shah (ANI Interview): “There is no need to debate this [pan-India NRC] as there is no discussion on it right now, PM Modi was right, there is no discussion on it yet either in the Cabinet or Parliament,”
February 4, 2020 -- Home Ministry MoS, (Parliament): “Till now government has taken no decision to prepare Register of Indian Citizens at the national level”.