The past week has witnessed the spread of protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Population Register (NPR) across the country. The opposition has termed the NPR as a kind of dry run for the National Register of Citizens whereby all Indians will be asked to provide documentation to prove their citizenship. But the Rs 4000 crore exercise proposed to be undertaken after the NPR is inherently discriminatory in nature. While Hindus who fail to furnish to such documentation will be regularized as citizens, Muslims will be sent to detention centres being built across the country. Also, the exercise is expected to be much more disruptive than the demonetization which made every Indian to stand in long queues to deposit their old currency. But the NPR which is being implemented now will be no less disruptive. The opposition is saying the exercise will suffice for the NRC as well. Under the NPR, people are being asked to furnish proof that their grandfather was born in India. Also, it has been left to the discretion of a low-level officer conducting the NPR to determine whether a person is an Indian or not.
This is making people across the country, especially Muslims, very anxious. And this is triggering protests and violence. In Uttar Pradesh, around 25 people have been killed so far in police action against the protesters. And much like Kashmir, internet has been shut down in parts of the country. But the protests have been ongoing with the political parties also joining. On Saturday Priyanka Gandhi said she was manhandled on her way to meet the families of the people killed in Uttar Pradesh.
The move has also caused deep anxiety in Kashmir where currently the fear of a large-scale demographic change following revocation of the Article 370 has already generated a deep sense of siege. This approach towards nation-building is a dangerous exercise. When the state itself acts discriminatively against its own people, it threatens to tear apart the social fabric and puts peace in peril.
What is more, the onus of establishing citizenship rests with the people unlike the international conventions where it is the state that has to prove it. But in a country like India, millions of people are poor and uneducated and lack an understanding of acquiring papers. And in a politically motivated exercise like this, people like them will lose their citizenship. So, it is important that the union government rethinks the exercise or takes credible steps to make it non-discriminatory.