“India doesn’t need NPR and CAA,” more than 100 former officials say in an open letter. Indian News
Former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, then-Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar and former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah urged their fellow citizens to urge the Union government to repeal the relevant sections of the Citizenship Act 1955 on the issue of national identity documents.
“We have our grave reservations about the constitutional validity of the provisions of the CAA, which we also consider morally indefensible. We would like to stress that a law that consciously excludes the Muslim religion from its sphere of competence is intended to give rise to apprehensions in what is a very large segment of India’s population,” the letter, entitled “India does not need CAA-NPR-NRIC,” said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement at a public meeting in Delhi on 22 December that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the Indian National Register of Citizens (NRIC) do not contradict the investments of his interior minister (Amit Shah) repeatedly in various forums, he said.
“At a time when the economic situation in the country deserves closer attention from the government, India cannot afford a situation where citizens and the government go into confrontation on the roads,” the letter said.
“Nor is it desirable to have a situation where most state governments are unwilling to implement NPR/NRIC, leading to a stalemate in center-state relations, as crucial in a federal structure as India,” he added.
Above all, he said, “We see a situation where India is in danger of losing international goodwill and alienating its immediate neighbors, with adverse consequences for security established on the subcontinent.”
Retired bureaucrats said there was no need for the National Population Registry (NPR) and the National Registry of Indian Citizens (NRIC).
“Our group of former officials, with many years of service in the public sphere, firmly believes that both NPR and NRIC are unnecessary and wasteful exercises, which will cause difficulties for the general public and will also involve a public spending that is better spent on schemes that benefit the poor and disadvantaged sectors of society,” the letter said.
They also constitute an invasion of citizens’ right to privacy, as a lot of information, including Aadhaar, mobile numbers and voter documents will be listed in a document, with room for misuse, he said.
“We are apprehensive that the vast powers to include or exclude a person from the Local Register of Indian Citizens who is to be conferred on bureaucracy at a fairly junior level are at the extent of being employed arbitrarily and discriminatoryly, subject to local pressures and to meet specific policy objectives, not to mention the rampant scope for large-scale corruption,” the letter said.
Former officials said worrying reports are already coming in from people in different parts of India panicking to get the necessary birth certificates.
“The problem is magnified in a country where the maintenance of birth records is poor, along with highly inefficient birth registration systems,” they said.
The provisions of the CAA, along with rather aggressive statements in recent years from the highest levels of this government, have rightly caused deep unease among the country’s Muslims, who have already faced discrimination and attacks on issues ranging from accusations of “love jihad” to cattle smuggling and beef consumption, the letter said.
“That the Muslim community has had to deal with the worst part of police action in recent days only in those states where the local police are controlled by the ruling party in the center only adds credibility to the widespread sense that the NPR-NRIC exercise could be used for the selective targeting of specific communities and individuals,” he said.
The former bureaucrats asked the people to urge the government to withdraw the Foreigners Amendment Order (Courts), 2019 and withdraw all instructions for the construction of detention camps, in addition to repealing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, according to the letter.
They also questioned the widespread creation of Foreign Courts and Detention Camps under the Foreigners Amendment Order (Courts), 2019.
“While the central government can argue that there is no such intention, it was certainly impolitical, given the prevailing environment in Assam and elsewhere, to issue such general orders delegating powers to form Foreign Courts. The experience with the Foreign Courts in Assam has been, to put it bluntly, traumatic for those on the receiving end,” the letter said.
He said that, after making the range of gathering documents and responding to objections to their citizenship claims, “doubtful citizens” had also had to deal with these courts, whose composition and functioning were highly discretionary and arbitrary.
“As a result, several citizens lost their lives in the quest to assert citizenship or have had to suffer the indignity of imprisonment in detention camps,” the letter read.