Skip to main content

Arousing Partition-like passions, setting stage for 'collision' between state and citizens

By Shantanu Basu*
In 2010, I recall the NPR enumerator, a middle school teacher, visiting our Delhi home. He carried two sets of forms - one for Census, the other for National Population Register (NPR). My Dad and I helped the man to fill in both forms, including for the domestic helps. No documents were sought nor any information on place of birth of parents, etc. was asked. We obliged the enumerator with all the info.
Since then most government services like passports, EPIC, Aadhaar, I-T returns, DBT, etc. have been digitised. The Government of India (GOI) now has unprecedented amount of data available with it. Then where is the need to seek so much info again? If there are data gaps, those can be collected by Census enumerators, unobtrusively.
Anti-Nation Register for Citizens (NRC) protests understandably have struck a raw chord among many that never worked for governments (CAA exempts them) but today must not only produce proof of their parents' (many deceased too) places of birth but also establish legal documentary proof of their relationship to the head of a family.
This, in effect, means birth/death/marriage/divorce certificates, ownership of immovable property documents (thousands held for decades together within families and repeatedly subdivided subsequently), and myriad more.
How many households in India would be able to provide these documents? Even if they did, how would verification be carried out, say for documents dating back to 1960 and before. For instance, registration of births were a rarity in the 1950s and 1960s, even until the 1970s.
Not just that; immovable property records maintained by civic agencies are still manual at least till 2000 AD. In rural areas, the problem is far more acute, compounded by illiteracy. And these info are neither religion-centric nor susceptible of online submission and verification.
Principally there is nothing wrong with creating an NPR. However, such exercise must not transfer the onus of proving loyalty to the state on citizens, rather supplement, voluntarily by citizens, data already available with GOI.
Coercion will be counterproductive, results uncertain and reactions volatile. Assam's NRC showed the debacle on its first show. If fake EPICs, PAN, etc. show up on a random sample, they could be checked using hand-held computers carried by enumerators (that presupposes that the database has sound integrity).
If GOI is honest about its intent, citizens have no reason to be apprehensive. But when it starts asking for places of birth of parents in a nation that has seen the largest mass migration in recorded history involving 14.50 million people in 1947-51 alone, GOI is opening a Pandora's box.
For citizens this is the first sign of trouble; after all, no one fancies statelessness. Again, when the GOI does not deny media reports that even passports would not be recognized for determining citizenship, that fuels greater apprehension and primes future protest. Wounds of Partition have been handed over from the 1947 refugees to subsequent generations. Where was the need to arouse Partition-like passions?
When GOI does not deny that a passport is not valid proof of citizenship, it is not only brazenly defying Parliamentary legislation but also making a statement that citizenship for all Indians is discretion than right, a totalitarian concept alien to our democratic tradition.
For now, NPR seems headed for a DeMo-like end that will again make India the laughing stock of the world
Likewise,when GOI's notified enumerators' manual clearly gives the checklist and supporting documents required for collection, its setting the stage for a collision between the state and its citizens.
Today Muslims are spearheading the anti-NRC agitation. Tomorrow when the true intent of NRC dawns, Hindus from Pakistan & Bangladesh, Sikhs from Afghanistan and Pakistan and, Tamils from Sri Lanka, all of whom made their homes in India, but whose parents (or themselves) were born in their respective nation of origin, will invariably join the mass movement. A leaderless mass movement can plunge a nation into anarchy as it can bring a new political star on the dark horizon.
How many bogus affidavits and money will change hands in this exercise is beyond any divine calculation too. Already the ex-Assam NCR coordinator is under a Rs 1,600 crore cloud.
GOI needs to tread with the utmost circumspection on NPR, instead of its present cavalier, indeed combative, manner. Our borders have major geographical aberrations but technology can ensure their relatively higher integrity as will a massive anti-corruption drive in those agencies that are involved in patrolling the international border and border fencing. No NPR can substitute for integrity of our international borders. Nor can NPR substitute for good governance.
For now, NPR seems headed for a DeMo-like end that will again make India the laughing stock of the world.
---
Formerly with the Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Ministry of Finance, Government of India. Source: Facebook timeline 

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Letter to friends, mentors: Coming together of class, communal, corona viruses 'scary'

By Prof (Dr) Mansee Bal Bhargava*
COVID greetings from Ahmedabad to dear mentors and friends from around the world…
I hope you are keeping well and taking care of yourself besides caring for the people around you. I’m writing to learn how is the science and the society coping with the prevention and cure of the pandemic. I’m also writing to share the state of the corona virus that is further complicated with the long-standing class and communal viruses.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.

Case for nationalising India's healthcare system amidst 'strong' private control

Counterview Desk
A draft discussion note, prepared by Dr Maya Valecha, a Gujarat-based gynecologist and activist, sent to the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) as also a large number of activists, academics and professionals as an email alert, is all set to create a flutter among policy experts for its strong insistence on nationalizing India’s healthcare system.

Oxfam on WB project: ICT 'ineffective', privatised learning to worsen gender divide

By Rajiv Shah 
A top multinational NGO, with presence in several developed and developing countries, has taken strong exception to the World Bank part-funding Strengthening Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project in six Indian states – Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha – for its emphasis on information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled approaches for teacher development, student assessment and digital platform for early childhood education.

Coal blocks for tycoons: Rinchi village tribals may be declared forest land encroachers

By Gladson Dungdung*
On June 18, 2020, the Government of India initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector.