Protesters from all genders, sexual and caste minorities along with other marginalised groups of migrant as well as sex workers gathered at Jantar Mantar on Friday against the three instruments of citizenship — the National Population Register (NPR), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
The event was organised on the birth anniversary of social reformist Savitrabai Phule, who is also known as the first woman educationalist in India.
As many as 45 different groups from a cross-section of society were present, including the All India Network of Sex Workers, Telangana Hijra Intersex Trans Samiti, The Queer Muslim Project, Pink List, TransNow Collective, Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA), National Federation of Indian Women, National Hawker Federation, Basti Suraksha Manch, among others.
The common refrain among these groups was that the inability to furnish evidence in the form of birth certificate, proof of residence, land records, etc. that will likely result in their harassment.
“The biggest problem for sex workers is to prove their work and the other is a lack of documents to prove their identity. When I have no proof of where I was born, who is the father of my child, then the NRC will completely erase my identity. Often sex workers migrate from one city to another and in the process, they lose these documents. The NRC is yet another example of a patriarchal society where children will be required to prove their father’s identity. Is then the government turning a blind eye to a mother’s relationship with her children,” said President of All India Network of Sex Workers, Kusum.
“A family is often a cite of violence for the queer people. Many of us are not even in touch with our families as we have been thrown out and ostracised. So, asking for our documents is not even an option. How are then we supposed to come under the NRC? This is how the queer people are put at risk. The CAA anyway excludes Muslims and when you are a queer too, you are doubly marginalised”, says Syeda Lameeya Parveen of The Queer Muslim Project.
She added that both NRC and NPR deny the sexual and gender minorities their right to self-determination. “NRC and NPR say that you are not who you are until you have proven it, until the government considers you worthy of being a citizen. Historically, the State has been violent towards trans, queer groups and other marginalised groups and with the CAA and NRC there will be more power in the hands of the police”.
“We have seen in Guwahati that the urban poor and migrant workers have been excluded from NRC because they did not have different documents. Further, just like demonetisation, many daily wagers will be forced to appear before Foreign Tribunals and skip work. Moreover, while many migrant workers are not legal owners of land occupied by them, such as in slums, they are their legitimate owners because they have lived there for long and have developed the area but the NRC or NPR exercise will not take those rights into account,” said Ankit Jha from National Hawkers’ Federation.
The government is yet to announce the NRCbut as per the rules inserted in 2003 to the Citizenship Act, 1955, the NRC will flow from data gather under the NPR. The Ministry of Home Affairs maintains that individuals will not be asked to produce physical copies of different documents but that information provided by individuals will be accepted. As per the trial form prepared by the MHA, information will be collected across 21 parameteres which include “place of birth of father and mother, the last place of residence”, along with Aadhaar (optional), voter ID card, mobile phone and driving licence numbers.