Allaying fears over the National Population Register (NPR), Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday said no citizen will be marked 'D' or 'doubtful' during the updating exercise and no documents need to be furnished to prove citizenship. Also, it is not compulsory to provide any information not available with an individual, he said.
Shah gave the clarification during his reply to a debate on communal riots in Delhi which he said were triggered by alleged hate speeches made after passing of the new citizenship law that gave non-Muslim illegal migrants from neighbouring nations Indian citizenship.
The updating of the NPR is to be done during six months beginning April 1 with enumerators seeking demographic and other particulars of each family and individuals.
On Delhi riots, Shah said the guilty, irrespective of political or religious affiliation, will not be spared. The guilty will be punished with the objective of instilling fear of law.
"No one from minority community should have any doubt regarding CAA and NPR," he said. "I want to set the record straight. No document will be required to be furnished in the NPR exercise. It wasn't done in the past and it won't be now." Also, people will be free to provide whatever information they have, he said.
"No one will be required to give information which is not there," he said on apprehensions of residence of parents being asked in the NPR and absence of it casting doubts. "No 'D' will be marked" for anyone not providing information, he said. He was responding to senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal expressing apprehension of enumerators marking 'D' against any an individual not answering all questions in the NPR.
Shah offered to clear any other doubts over NPR to a small delegation of opposition leaders if they wish to visit him. He said no section of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) provides for taking away of citizenship of anyone. The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country. The data for NPR was last collected in 2010 along with the house-listing phase of Census 2011.
Home MInister Amit Shah outside Parliament. (PTI)
There are apprehensions that those not having citizenship documents could be identified in the NPR for action at a later date. Shah also strongly defended his party BJP's record on communal riots, saying 76 per cent of those killed in riots were during Congress rule. He listed the riots that happened post independence and said it was not in the nature of the BJP to instigate riots but to check them.
Rejecting allegations that the Delhi riots were state sponsored, he asked why would any government engineer such violence when the world's most powerful person, US President Donald Trump, was being hosted by the prime minister. He saw a deep-rooted conspiracy behind the Delhi riots saying foreign money was circulated and thousands of social media accounts were created to fan hatred before violence began on February 24 and closed a day later.
All those responsible for peddling foreign money as well as spreading hatred will be unearthed as there is an electronic trail, he said.
Shah said over 700 FIRs have been registered and 2,647 persons arrested in connection with the Delhi riots based on evidence. Facial recognition technology, using data in driving licence and voter ID, has been used to identify 1922 people involved in rioting.
No Aadhaar data was used for the purpose and no privacy guideline of the Supreme Court was flouted, he said and asserted that none should be bothered about privacy rights of those who have killed people and damaged property.
Those who are responsible for the riots and those who conspired will be punished irrespective of their caste, religious and political affiliations, Shah said, adding the government will book the culprits after conducting investigations in a transparent and scientific manner. He said 50 serious cases of murder, attacks on religious places, hospitals, and educational institutions have been handed over to three special investigating teams (SITs). Those identified for the riots include some from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, he said.
The home minister said firearms were used, 49 cases have been registered and 125 arms seized. He said peace committees, comprising community and religious leaders were activated to appeal for peace.
According to him, police have names and addresses of people involved in violence, and 40 special teams have been constituted to arrest them. Shah also informed that five persons have been arrested in connection with hawala transactions. Regarding social media, he said hundreds of accounts were created just before February 24, the day the riots started, and large number of them were closed during the night of February 25. According to the minister, the riots ended on February 25.
He rejected conspiracy theories behind the transfer of Delhi High Court judge S Muralidhar who had ordered registering of FIRs against BJP leaders and ministers for alleged hate speech, saying it was done on the recommendation of the collegium and after taking consent of the judge in question.
"Why do you think only one judge can give justice and not any other," he asked. "Will any other judge not do justice?" "Why are you spreading absurd narrative," he asked the opposition.
Shah also took a jibe at some opposition leaders who were saying the Delhi violence took place at the behest of the ruling party. "Use common sense, why will a government do any such thing when US President Donald Trump was visiting India," he said. He also rubbished contention that the BJP instigate communal riots, saying it was being done since the time of independence.
He said 76 per cent of the riots in the country took place in the country during Congress party rule, adding only Gujarat riots of 2002 took place when the state was being ruled by BJP.