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India doesn’t need CAA, NPR, NRIC, say over 100 former bureaucrats in open letter

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In the letter addressed to citizens, the former officials, including ambassadors and secretaries to the govt. of India, have demanded the repeal of the CAA

Over 100 former bureaucrats in an open letter on Thursday have said there was no need for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), adding that they had “grave reservations” about the constitutional validity of provisions of the CAA.

In the letter addressed to fellow citizens, 106 former officials, including ambassadors and secretaries to the government of India, who form the thinktank Constitutional Conduct, have demanded the repeal of the CAA.

Passed in December, the law fast-tracks citizenship for Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, Hindu and Christian migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, leaving out Muslims.

Among the signatories to the letter are former Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung, ex-Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and former Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

The letter says the NPR had nothing to do with the Census, which is conducted every 10 years and is due in 2021. It points out that the NPR and the NRIC exercises arose out of amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955 in 2003 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

“We fail to understand the need for a nationwide identification of ‘illegal migrants’, which is what the NRIC in effect amounts to, when Census statistics over the past seven decades do not show any major demographic shifts, except in certain pockets in some areas of Northeastern and Eastern India adjoining our neighbouring countries,” the letter states.

The former bureaucrats also expressed apprehensions about the powers to be given to the local registrar, a relatively junior level officer, to decide whether a person is included or excluded from the local register of Indian citizens.

“The provisions of the CAA, coupled with rather aggressive statements over the past few years from the highest levels of this government, rightly cause deep unease in India’s Muslim community...” they said.

Stating that the NPR would be an inconvenience to people as well as unnecessary expenditure for the country, the letter also questioned the authorisation of setting up Foreigners’ Tribunals and detention camps.

On the CAA, the letter says: “We have our grave reservations about the constitutional validity of the CAA provisions, which we also consider to be morally indefensible. A formulation that focused on those suffering persecution [religious, political, social] in any country in the world would not only have calmed local apprehensions but would also have been appreciated by the international community.”

The former officials said that since the government has the discretion to grant citizenship and give exemptions from the Passport Act, 1920, and Foreigners Act, 1946, it could have exercised it, without passing the CAA.

The letter also point out that while Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on December 22 that the NRC and CAA were not linked, Home Minister Amit Shah has said on “repeated occasions” that they are connected.

“In such a welter of conflicting and confusing utterances, it is hardly surprising that the ordinary citizen is left bewildered and is overcome by unknown fears, more so when government has not entered into any dialogue on this issue,” the letter says.

Demanding the repeal of sections of the Citizenship Act pertaining to the issue of national identity cards and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 altogether, the formers bureaucrats have urged the government to withdraw the Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019, and all instructions for construction of detention camps.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 2:07:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-doesnt-need-caa-npr-nric-say-over-100-former-bureaucrats-in-open-letter/article30526821.ece

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