How Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is different from NRC and NPR

Delhi Jan 16, 2020, 01.12 PM(IST) Written By: Vinay Nalwa

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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In CAA, NRC or NPR, there is no rule or even a mention of terminating citizenship on the basis of religion.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has come into force by the Official Gazette of the Central Government’s notification published on January 10, 2020.

It is worthwhile to note that CAA whose certain sections are linking with NRC and NPR is made to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities of the three countries mentioned in the act and not to terminate or take away anyone’s citizenship. 

Nowhere in the Act, it is mentioned that the other persecuted communities which are not included can’t seek citizenship on the grounds of persecution. There are already existing procedures under which these requests/appeals are considered.

Time and again much well thought out solutions have been explored and put into practice to address the critical situation related to infiltration and illegal citizens. India has been continuously facing the continuous influx of the persecuted minorities from the three neighbouring states- Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, as well as, infiltration by the illegal immigrants and terrorists. India paid a price at the time of Independence when it’s territory was divided in the name of religion. 

It was a situation of unwilling migration and traumatic exodus which neither leaders nor the people comprehended.

The purpose of the Citizenship Act is to consolidate Indian identity with the determination of citizenship becoming all-encompassing with the Right to individual freedom, the Right to participate in the exercise of political power, and the Right to security and share in nation’s heritage. It came into effect five years after India’s Constitution became effective as a Republic and eight years after Independence. 

It is an Act to provide for the acquisition and termination of Indian citizenship. Due to the country’s division into two different states, a mass migration took place which continued for many years. The Citizenship Act, 1955 made provision for those migrated also but with a time frame. This legislation Act also lays down rules of termination of Indian Citizenship by way of  ‘Renunciation, Termination and Deprivation’. Over the years, it has been amended by Acts of 1986, 2003, 2005 and 2015 which were duly passed by successive Parliaments.

It was the Kargil war which made the authorities realise and identify the lacunae in national security. After the Kargil war, a review committee was made to examine the sequence of events in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and make recommendations for the future. The first recommendation suggested by the Kargil Review Committee was a thorough review of the national security system in its entirety. 

The role of illegal immigrants was supposed to have led to the situation and the Committee suggested compulsory registration of citizens to be included in a national register. Another recommendation was to make unique identification cards for citizens and coloured cards for non-citizen residents of India. All these exercises were recommended to start from border areas up to 20 km. The Committee had suggested that later these could be extended to the internal areas. The recommendations were accepted by the Government of India and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 was adopted.

Under Citizenship Rules, 2003, the NPR  - a register of residents of the country - was prepared under the provisions of the Citizenship Act, at the local (village/sub-town), sub-district, district, state and national administrative level. In 2010 the demographic data for the entire country was also digitised thereby creating an electronic database of 118 crore persons. Now it only needs to be updated.

The difference between the NRC and NPR is that the NPR is a register of record of people living in India so no documented proof of citizenship is asked and in NRC which is national register concerning only citizens so it requires citizenship proof documents. The purpose of NPR is to help in demographically improved targeting of benefits and services under the Government schemes, facilitating improved planning and prevent identity fraud. The NRC is primarily to keep a check on illegal immigration as mentioned in Assam Accord.

The misconception by clubbing of CAA with NRC and NPR led to fear, agitation, rioting and arson at many places all over India. This despite the fact that nowhere in NPR or NRC there is a mention of inclusion or exclusion of any community on the basis of religion.

Even during the Congress government’s rule in 1986, measures like issuing of special identity cards in Rajasthan were initiated as a safeguard to counter cross-border infiltration. 

According to the Citizenship Rules, 2003, the Centre can issue an order to prepare the NPR and create the NRC from the data gathered in the National Population Register (NPR). It further says no new rules or laws are needed to conduct this exercise in the whole of India. So how can a new amendment  - CAA 2019 - create challenges in this context?

The CAA 2019 has a more humane approach which the protestors are overlooking. One can ask, do the persecuted and oppressed need not be be given an identity and a dignified place in Indian society? It is important to note that in CAA, NRC or NPR, there is no rule or even a mention of terminating citizenship on the basis of religion.

(Views expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)