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Citizenship row: Over 1100 women sign letter asking 29 CMs to delink NPR, Census

By Our Representative
Even as the Government of India (GoI) is going ahead with the "updation" of the National Population Register (NPR) starting April 1, 2020, prominent women's rights leaders have released a letter addressed to 29 chief ministers stating that, "irrespective of caste and religious community", women across the country will be adversely affected by the "new NPR-National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) citizenship regime."
Signed by over 1,100 women led by Annie Raja, Farah Naqvi, Anjali Bhardwaj, Vani Subramanian, Meera Sanghmitra, Mariam Dhawle and Poonam Kaushik, and 10 women's organizations, the letter says the whole idea of the new exercise is to "test" citizenship, which is "totally arbitrary and frightening". The NPR process is proposed to be carried out alongside house listing for the Census of India.
The signatories of the letter, who include activists, writers, academics, lawyers, doctors, farmers, professionals, anganwadi workers and from other walks of life, belonging to over 20 states, say, “We write to you as Indian women who are opposed to NPR. We constitute nearly 50% of India’s population, and this opposition is based on clear evidence from our own lives."
Releasing the letter at a media conference in Delhi, Annie Raja quoted the letter as saying, “Women often do not have land or property in their names, have lower literacy rates, and leave their natal homes upon marriage with no documents in tow. In Assam, a vast majority of the 19 lakh, left out of the NRC, are women. That is the reality.”
The letter adds, women and children, from Adivasi communities, Dalit women, Muslim women, migrant labourers, small farmers, the landless, domestic workers, sex workers and transgender persons, being asked to ‘prove’ citizenship, putting them at grave risk of being disenfranchised.
Women often don't have land or property in their name, have low literacy rates. Children from poorer sections don't have birth certificates
The letter notes, Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, and the accompanying 2003 Rules,clearly provide for using NPR data to compile NRIC, and give local registrars the power to mark people as ‘doubtful citizens.’
Objecting to Union home minister Amit Shah’s March 12 statement in Parliament that no one will be marked 'doubtful', it adds, his statement "carries no legal sanctity, until the relevant statutes and rules are formally amended."
The letter asks chief ministers to delink the NPR and the Census, insisting, while many states have passed resolutions in the Legislative Assembly opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Population Register (NPR) and NRC, unless specific executive orders are issued to de-link NPR and census, the resolutions will only remain a statement of expression.
Only two states -- Kerala and West Bengal -- have issued executive orders, staying the roll out of the NPR, while Rajasthan and Jharkhand have given orders only for the roll out of the census from April 1, 2020.

Text of the letter:

We write to you as Indian women who are opposed to the proposed National Population Register (NPR). Women constitute nearly 50% of India’s population, and this opposition is based on clear evidence from our own lives.
Section 14 A of the Citizenship Act, the accompanying 2003 Rules, and official reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs, all provide for using NPR data to compile the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC). The NRIC will be prepared by local registrars scrutinizing information of individuals in the Population Register and marking people as ‘Doubtful Citizens’.
While the Home Minister on March 12, 2020 stated in Parliament that no one will be marked “doubtful”, this assurance carries no legal sanctity, until the relevant statutes and rules are formally amended
Women, irrespective of caste and religious community, will be hugely affected by the NPR-NRIC citizenship regime being rolled out by the Central government, that puts all our citizenship rights to test, in an arbitrary and frightening manner. The combination of the NPR and NRIC will force each person to prove their citizenship, and disproportionately put at risk the women, the weakest, and the most marginal people of our country.
Unless executive orders are issued to delink NPR and Census, resolutions passed by some assemblies will remain statements of expression
NRC in Assam resulted in excluding 6% of the population, because they could not produce necessary documents. Of the 19 lakh people, who today live the daily trauma of an uncertain future, a vast majority, are women and children. This includes married women, who left natal homes and carried no papers into their marital home. Nothing saved them – panchayat certificates linking them to original ‘legacy’ holders were often rejected. This is the frightening reality staring many Indian women in the face today.
Women often do not have land or property in their names. They have lower literacy rates. The low rate of institutional deliveries several decades ago, means that children do not have birth certificates. It is clear that women and children from Adivasi communities, nomadic and denotified tribes, Dalit women, Bahujan women, Muslim women, women from other minority communities, women with disabilities, migrant labourers, small farmers, the landless, domestic workers, sex workers, transgender and queer persons, and women in the unorganised sector, asked to ‘prove’ citizenship, will all be at grave risk of being disenfranchised.
It is now up to you, as a state government, to prevent this mass chaos and attack on India’s most marginal. Protect our rights by stopping NPR.
We also ask you to protect the sanctity of the Census, which we know is vital to planning development for the most marginal citizens of our country.
We, therefore, ask the state government to ensure that:
  1. The NPR and the Census are de-linked, and from April 1, 2020 enumerators are sent out only with the census schedule. 
  2. Appropriate executive decisions to this end must be urgently issued and publicised.
  3. Safeguard citizens of (name of state), and ensure no punitive action against anyone engaging in a boycott of NPR.

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