The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress on Thursday got into a blame game over the antecedents of the National Population Register (NPR) and the detention camps that have come up for illegal immigrants in Assam and elsewhere, even as protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) continued in several parts of the country.
At a public event in Delhi, which is scheduled to go for polls early next year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah accused the Congress and other opposition parties of creating confusion over the CAA. He said it was time to defeat the “tukde tukde” gang. In Hyderabad, Union Minister G Kishan Reddy said the opposition was misleading the people by linking NPR with the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The BJP said the Congress-led UPA initiated the NPR in 2010, along with the Census 2011 exercise, and that it had also approved construction of detention centres.
The Opposition, on the other hand, has pointed to at least eight instances, which are in the public domain, where the Centre has said NPR will form the basis for NRC.
Congress leader P Chidambaram said the NPR approved by the Narendra Modi government was different and dangerous in terms of the “text and context” of the data collection done in 2010. He said if the BJP’s motives were bonafide, the Centre should unconditionally state that they support the NPR form and design of 2010 and do not intend to link it to the controversial NRC.
Chidambaram said he was happy that the BJP had released a video clip of the launch of NPR in 2010.
“Please listen to the video. We were enumerating the “usual residents” of the country. The emphasis is on residency not citizenship,” he said.
Congress leader Ajay Maken said the party would have no problems if the 2010 NPR questionnaire remained, but some of the questions in the new one were dangerous. He said the new questionnaire made it amply clear that people would need to submit their Aadhaar and other details, and the government’s claim that this would be voluntary was false.
In Uttar Pradesh, at least 19 people have been killed in anti-CAA and –NRC-related violence, including in police action. More than 1,100 people are under arrest and 5,558 kept in preventive detention. A PTI report from Lucknow said security was stepped up and patrolling intensified in the state to ensure peace ahead of the Friday prayers. It said 372 people were being issued notices to confiscate properties of those involved in damaging public assets during the protests. The police said 288 policemen d been injured, including 61 who received firearm injury.
In New Delhi, rights activists alleged that there was a “reign of terror” prevailing in UP and the police were framing false charges against people. Former bureaucrat and activist Harsh Mander said the Centre was spreading “blatant lies” on NRC and NPR to forward their divisive agenda. Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav alleged the BJP government in UP was afraid of Hindu-Muslim unity, and sought to know when a probe into “police brutality” will be ordered.
Janata Dal (United) National Vice-President Prashant Kishor termed the Centre’s statement that NRC and NPR were not related and that NRC would not be conducted a “tactical retreat” in the face of nationwide protests. “It is a pause and not the full stop. The government could wait till the Supreme Court judgment on CAA. A favourable court order and the whole process will be back,” Kishor tweeted.
Protests were held in the national capital, across Assam, and other parts of the country. In Kolkata, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee said her party’s peaceful protests woulld continue until the CAA was scrapped. In Maharashtra, Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar held an anti-CAA and NRC protest.