Home Ministry Misleads Parliament on NRIC, Detention Centres

THE Home Ministry has just stated in reply to a question in Parliament, that there are no plans for any all-India NRC underway. This statement contradicts the one made by the Home Minister in Parliament in November 2019, when he stated that “The Assam exercise was carried out under a Supreme Court order. NRC will be carried out across the country, will be done in Assam again at the time, no one from any religion should be worried.” Faced by a countrywide upsurge against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the NRIC-NPR, the Government is trying desperately to protect CAA by misleading Parliament and people that CAA is delinked from NRIC and NPR.

In late December 2019, the Union Cabinet approved Rs 3,941.35 crore for updating the National Population Register (NPR). The NPR is by far the most dangerous step of the whole NPR-NRIC-CAA package, allowing the government to arbitrarily strip any Indian of their voting rights by labeling them “doubtful” citizens. In Assam, persons marked “Doubtful” voters were sent to languish in detention centres.

The Vajpayee Government had passed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2003 (CAA of 2003), introducing the NPR and NRIC. The Sub-rule (4) of Rule 4 of the Rules of the CAA 2003 state that "during the verification process of the Population Register (or NPR)”, a step before the NRIC is prepared, a tehsildar or “sub-district or Taluk Registrar” would have the power to label any individual or a family as "doubtful" citizen, without having to specify any reasons or basis for doing so. This will open the doors for massive corruption. It will allow the Government to tailor the voter list to suit the ruling party and eliminate any dissenters from the voter rolls. It will, above all, allow the Government to control and intimidate the entire population: any worker seeking to form a union or any citizen agitating for their rights could be silenced with threats to label them “doubtful” citizens.

NRC can be stopped only if Parliament deletes the provisions for NPR and NRIC in the 2003 Amendment and rules of the Citizenship Act, and if the NPR process that is underway is immediately stopped and all data collected under the NPR previously is destroyed.

The Government has also misled Parliament by stating that no detention centres are being constructed in Assam “to exclusively house NRC excludees.” The fact is that the Ministry of Home Affairs has sanctioned a sum of Rs 47 crore to build a new detention centre in Goalpara, Assam, while 6 detention centres already exist in Assam, where 30 detainees lost their lives. The old detention centres house people marked as “D-voters” (doubtful voters) under the Foreigners Tribunal Act. Those excluded from the NRC will also have to be subjected to Foreigners Tribunals. If they fail to be recognised as citizens by the Tribunals they will be sent to Detention Centres – including the new one under construction at Goalpara.

The Government is also trying to mislead Parliament and public by using a new term “holding centres” for detention centres. Whatever the terminology, such centres are basically concentration camps where people who are not charged or convicted of any crime can be imprisoned indefinitely without a trial.

CPIML emphatically demands that the Government stop all plans to conduct NPR and NRIC and close down all existing and forthcoming detention centres. Instead of spending lakhs of crores of tax-payers money on NPR, NRIC and detention camps that will strip Indians of voting rights and human rights, the Government must spend that money to ensure the best of schooling, higher education, healthcare and employment for every Indian.