Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday asserted in the Rajya Sabha that there would be no doubtful category in the National Population Register (NPR) even if a person failed to furnish information. He invited opposition leaders to meet him to clear all their doubts on the issue.
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“No documents will be asked under the NPR. You are free to give whatever information you have and need not give the information that is not available. There will be no doubtful category... no one will be marked as a doubtful citizen. And all of you [Opposition] can come to me to ask any doubts on NPR,” Mr. Shah said.
This assertion comes in the backdrop of doubts raised by many within the ruling NDA on the NPR form seeking information about the birth date and place of birth of respondent’s parents. The opposition members raised many questions on Mr. Shah’s assertions but were not allowed to speak.
Mr. Shah also sought to assure everyone that no one had to be afraid of NPR for whatever reason.
He spoke this at the end of a raging verbal duel with Congress leader Kapil Sibal. “Hate speeches started soon after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act was passed by Parliament. Fear was instilled across the country in the minds of minority that the CAA will snatch their citizenship. Please tell me of a single clause in the law that says that citizenship of Muslims will be revoked,” he said, pointing at Mr. Sibal.
To this, Mr. Sibal replied that the Congress never said that the CAA could revoke anybody’s citizenship but it had to be seen in connection with the NPR that would be followed by the National Register of Citizens (NRC). “It is not just about Muslims, it is also about the poor, tribals and so on. Many additional questions will be asked in the NPR and those who are unable to answer these questions will be put in doubtful category,” Mr. Sibal said.
Mr. Shah also claimed that the issue of Delhi High Court judge Justice S. Muralidhar’s transfer was routine and was done on the advice of the collegium. Justice Muralidhar was transferred a day after he ordered an FIR in case of hate speeches delivered by BJP leaders Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma and Union Minister Anurag Thakur.
“The transfer orders had come on February 12 and was done on the collegium’s advice and with judges consent. You [Opposition] should know better that the government has little role to play in judge’s transfer,” Mr Shah said.
The Home Minister hit out at the opposition saying that it was unfair to say that only one judge could deliver justice. “Why do you think only one judge can do justice? I am against this mentality — why a particular judge? Won’t others deliver justice?” Mr. Shah asked.
The Left members had referred to Delhi riots as ‘state-sponsored’ terrorism. To this, Mr. Shah said would a government orchestrate riots when they were hosting an international guest. “Please use some common sense,” he said.
With Opposition leaders saying that there is blood on the Narendra Modi administration’s hands, Mr. Shah attempted to counter it with the claim that 76% riots cases were recorded under the Congress regime. He rattled off the major riot cases, counting only 2002 Gujarat riots under the BJP government. “Instigating riots not our nature; our nature is to stem them,” he asserted.
Mr. Sibal initiated the discussion on behalf of the opposition. He accused the Modi government of unleashing “communal virus” and questioned why an FIR had not yet been filed against Mr. Mishra, Mr. Verma and Mr. Thakur for hate speeches just days before the riots. It amounts to “a licence to kill,” he said.
“While Delhi was burning for more than 70 hours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained silent,” Mr. Sibal said. He accused the Delhi police of being complicit with the rioters, citing videos of Delhi police officers breaking CCTVs. The Congress MP also cited the example of injured persons who were poked with lathis by the Delhi police and forced to sing the national anthem while they were bleeding.
Mr. Sibal said Delhi had a strong police force of 87,000 but unfortunately the riots could not be contained. He took a dig at the government saying that the Solicitor General, when asked by a judge about the FIRs, said it was not an opportune time. “When is the opportune time to file an FIR?” Mr. Sibal questioned.
‘Children worst hit’
Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said children were the worst sufferers in the riots and “deep scars” had been left. “Genocide is a process. It doesn’t start with gas chambers, it started with inciting slogans,” Mr. O’Brien said. Referring to National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s visit to riot-hit areas, the TMC MP asked, “If the Delhi police were doing a good job, why was the chain of command superseded and the NSA was given command?”
Mr. O’Brien equated the 2002 Gujarat riots with 2020 Delhi riots saying that the same men who were in power in Gujarat then were in power in Delhi now.
Plea for probe
Congress MP Anand Sharma sought a judicial probe overseen by the Supreme Court and said the Delhi police Special Investigation Team was not good enough to investigate the riots. “Why wasn’t curfew imposed on the first day, why no shoot at sight orders? Despite security arrangements for [U.S. President Donald] Trump, this happened,” Mr. Sharma said.
Key BJP ally Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral said Delhi riots reminded him of the 1984 riots when the city saw a similar orgy of violence. “Sir, it’s a mystery who initiated the riots only an impartial and transparent inquiry can reveal the truth,” he said.
BSP’s Ashok Sidharth said the riots had a definite pattern. The first day they were merely a clash between the anti-CAA protesters and the Delhi police, by second day it had taken a communal colour and by third day the minority community was targeted. DMK’s Tiruchi Siva taunted Mr. Shah saying that no one expected him to resign because he was not like former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri to take onus of any shortcoming. The opposition members blamed the Home Ministry and the Delhi police for the inaction.