We keep hearing from those defending the Citizenship Amendment Act that it has nothing to do with the NRC, and that all the nationwide outrage is uncalled for.
Understanding what happened in Assam when they conducted the NRC process at a time when the CAA was not yet in place, will help in understanding this linkage.
The Assam NRC process asked every person living in Assam to submit 1 or 2 documents to prove that they are Indian citizens. If they were unable to submit these documents, or if the authorities found issues with the submitted documents, these people were struck off from the NRC list. Those who were struck off were no longer considered citizens of India, and faced the risk of being deported or arrested.
What documents were required under the Assam NRC (Source)? There are 3 types of documents:
A. Pre-1971 Self Identity Proof: This is a document issued by the Government on or before Mar 24th 1971 with your own name on it. (Anything issued after 1971 is not acceptable)
B. Pre-1971 Parents’ Identity Proof: This is any document issued by the Government on or before Mar 24th 1971 with your father or mother or grandparents’ name on it. (Anything issued after 1971 is not acceptable)
C. Relationship Proof: A document to prove that you are the child or grandchild of the person whose identity proof you are submitting. (Documents issued after 1971 are ok)
Every single person was asked to either submit A or submit BOTH B & C to be included in the NRC. If someone was less than 48 years old (born after 1971), they would not have a Pre-1971 Self Identity Proof so they had to submit BOTH B and C.
Most readers on this post are likely to be under the age of 48 (Over 80% of India are below the age of 49). What can get an under-48 year old like you in trouble with the NRC:
- Your own Aadhaar, passport, driving license, voter ID is useless because it is not even being asked for under B or C.
- If your parents or grandparents do not possess any document from pre-1971 days and only hold an Aadhaar card, it does not count.
- If your parents or grandparents have passed away and you do not have any of their documents with you, you may be presumed to be illegal. You may have their Aadhaar card with you but it won’t be accepted. Their death certificate will be accepted only if they passed away before 1971 and you kept the death certificate safe for 48+ years.
- If there is a name mismatch in your parent’s name between the pre-1971 proof and your relationship-proof, you may get rejected.
With the documentary requirements being as strict as they were, genuine Indian citizens from Assam were unable to submit the documents and many of them got excluded from the NRC. BJP was hoping that the exclusion list would be full of Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants only, but the 19-lakh exclusion list ended up with names of genuine Indians of all religions.
Assume they launched a nationwide NRC with the same rules that they put out for Assam, will a legal Indian have the documents required to qualify for the NRC?
Back to Assam. Facing a backlash from genuine Indians who had wrongly been excluded in the NRC, the Government scrapped the Assam NRC. They had to think of a safety net to protect the people wrongly included in the NRC exclusion list (read non-Muslims). And that’s when Amit Shah introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill to the world:
… and also clarified that people of all religions except Muslims do not need to submit any documents to become citizens under the CAA.
So what does this mean?
If you are a Muslim illegal immigrant from Pak/Ban/Afg? — Deportation or jail.
If you are a non-Muslim illegal immigrant from Pak/Ban/Afg — Apply for citizenship without any documents, get citizenship, and get included in the NRC.
If you are a non-Muslim legal Indian who is unable to submit documents required by NRC? — Apply for citizenship without any documents, get citizenship proof, and get included in the NRC.
If you are a Muslim legal Indian who is unable to submit documents required by NRC? — The Govt cannot identify whether you are a legal Indian without documents, or an illegal Indian, so you will be treated as an illegal immigrant. Face deportation or jail.
Based on the above, my opinion of the Government’s real intentions behind CAA and NRC is that
- Our Government does not really care about illegal immigrants of any religion — we are unlikely to start giving out citizenship en masse to illegal immigrants.
- NRC is an exercise meant to target Indian Muslims and ask them to submit documents that they are unlikely to have.
- The Citizenship Amendment Act is a safety net meant to save the Indian non-Muslims who may end up getting incorrectly caught in the evil NRC.
And hence we must oppose the CAA-NRC combination in its current form.