23 respected citizens sent a letter to as many as 28 Chief Ministers, including Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, Nitish Kumar, Bhupesh Baghel, Arvind Kejriwal, Pinarayi Vijayan, Kamal Nath, Conrad Sangma, Zoramthanga, Neiphiu Rio, Naveen Patnaik, V Narayanasamy, Amarinder Singh, Ashok Gehlot, Prem Singh Tamang, Edappadi K Palaniswami, K Chandrashekhar Rao, Mamata Banerjee, Hemant Soren , Uddhav Thackeray. The letter appeals to them to join the struggle against CAA-NPR-NRIC. The following is the text of the letter:
Lakhs of young people, women, working and middleclass citizens are spiritedly and peacefully protesting in every corner of the country today against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Register of Indian Citizens, and, most urgently, against the National Population Register.
We attach a note summarising why the NPR makes the NRIC even more dangerous than the Assam NRC. We also attach a longer explanatory note prepared by more than 100 respected retired civil servants who call themselves the Constitutional Conduct Group.
In summary, the amendment to the citizenship law under the BJP government in 2003 and the rules made therein laid the foundations for what is unfolding today. It laid down that:
- Even if born in India, a person cannot become an Indian citizen, if one parent is declared an ‘illegal citizen’.
- An NRIC will be prepared to identify ‘illegal citizens.’
- The NPR will be prepared as a comprehensive national record of residents, then the executive (as well as other citizens) would identify who are ‘doubtful citizens.’ This opens the doors for communal targeting by the lower executive and communal organizations.
People across the country from all walks of life have been expressing their anguish and registering their protest in various ways. They have recognized that this law destroys the central values of the constitution, of equality and non-discrimination, by creating a regime of differentiation based on religion. It will also allow the executive even at junior levels to challenge the citizenship of any person. This will promote massive corruption through harassment and demands of under-the-counter payment to keep names securely in the list of bona-fide citizens. It will also put enormous burden on the state and national exchequer, diverting scarce financial and human resources from socially necessary public goods such as health care, education, better transportation and such like; push the economy further into the doldrums; apart from the enormous inestimable human cost on millions of our poorest and most vulnerable people.
Many citizens have declared that they will boycott the NPR and NRIC: that they will not show their documents. But the people need the support of state governments such as yours, in this critical hour. This is why governments of states/union territories must clearly state that they will not implement the NPR. Only if enough number of non-BJP state governments who agree to do this, will we be able to stop the proceedings of a highly divisive agenda. We need our state governments to join the collective effort towards civil disobedience by refusing to implement both the NPR and the NRIC. This would be critical in stopping the union government on its tracks. This will be the federal pushback with the assertion of the constitutional rights of state governments, in the form of a unique civil disobedience by the state governments. The union government can, perhaps, try to implement and impose the CAA directly through its own bureaucracy. But it cannot implement either the NRIC or the NPR unless the state governments make available their staff for the massive operation which involves house-to-house collection of information and detailed collation.
But it will not be enough for citizens to boycott the National Population Register and the National Register of Indian Citizens. The people need the state governments in this hour. This is why governments of states must clearly state that they will not implement the NPR. Only if enough number of non-BJP state governments do this, will we be able to stop the proceedings of a highly divisive agenda. We need our state governments to join the collective effort at civil disobedience by refusing the implement both the NPR and the NRIC. This will constitute a federal pushback, in a unique civil disobedience by the state governments. This alone will stop the union government in its tracks. The union government can, perhaps, implement the CAA directly through its own bureaucracy. But it cannot implement either the NRIC or the NPR unless the state governments make available their staff for the massive operation which involves house-to-house collection of information.
It needs to be clearly understood that the combination of the NPR and the NRIC makes it possible for functionaries at the lowest level to question the citizenship of any individual. Further, the NPR and the NRIC are being sought to be implemented under existing laws and, hence, credible legal challenge in the future is not open to us and therefore the refusal by the states of this first step towards disenfranchising millions becomes critically important.
If state governments permit the NPR, they will, in effect, permit a process of communal targeting. This will cause catastrophic suffering; the possible disenfranchisement of millions of Indian Muslims; and the permanent dismembering of social harmony and justice. It will be, in sum, a terrible betrayal of the Constitution — which “We the people of India” gave to ourselves.
Instead, following the example of the Kerala state government, all other non-BJP state governments must approach the Supreme Court for repeal of CCA 2019, as well as the amendments of 2003 which provide for the NRIC and the NPR. If these are not struck down, the only path for the states to take is to disobey the union government, even at the risk of dismissal. There is no other way to prevent the destruction of the constitution.
In the case of Kerala, the Left alliance joined hands with the Congress and its allies to pass a unanimous resolution rejecting the unholy trinity of the CAA, NRIC and NRC. It is imperative that other states and alliances make similar efforts through
- An appeal to the union government to repeal the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
- A clear call for a repeal of Sections 14A and 18 (2) (ia) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 (introduced by the 2003 amendment) and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 in its entirety. Only then can the state governments, and our people, be rid of the sceptre of the NRIC and an NPR, with their potential for a targeted selection of ‘doubtful citizens’ by the executive.
- A resolution to withdraw the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019, which authorises all District Magistrates to establish Foreigners Tribunals; and to withdraw all instructions for construction of detention camps.
As citizens of conscience, and as people committed to our constitution, we urge all state governments including yours to take a clear and unambiguous stand: on opposing CAA; and refusing to implement the dangerously linked NRIC and the NPR.
Fr Cedric Prakash