Dangerous doublespeak: On government’s NPR-NRC talk

The government’s position on the NRC appears designed to create confusion

Updated - December 26, 2019 10:52 am IST

Published - December 26, 2019 12:02 am IST

The Centre appears to have marginally mellowed its position on rolling out a National Register of Citizens (NRC), going by the statements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah this week. But the Prime Minister’s contention that the widespread concerns about the NRC are merely fear-mongering by his political opponents is disingenuous and lame. The Prime Minister said no discussion on NRC had taken place in the government , which may be a clever statement but is certainly not reassuring. The plans for a countrywide NRC were announced repeatedly by senior functionaries of the government including Mr. Shah , even in Parliament. The concern that such an exercise, in combination with the recently enacted Citizenship (Amendment) Act , or CAA, could lead to disenfranchisement and harassment of the poor and undocumented segments of the population was not born out of anyone’s imagination. Such a link has been stated by the ruling dispensation. The political thought behind the CAA-NRC fusion is the distinction that Mr. Modi makes between “infiltrators” and “refugees”, as if they could be separated on the basis of their religion. This argument was advanced in the 2014 campaign and it is ironical that the Prime Minister reiterated it in the same speech in which he accused the Opposition of spreading misinformation on the NRC. If the government has a rethink on its strident position on the NRC, it must say so upfront, and at any rate desist from denigrating critics. So far, what has come as clarification has only added to the confusion.

In fact, the government must seriously reevaluate its position. India has a host of serious national challenges to tackle, the economy being the most critical. In his first Independence Day speech as Prime Minister, Mr. Modi had in 2014 called for a 10-year moratorium on communal and caste conflicts . He also promised to run the country on the basis of consensus and not of legislative majority. It is time he redeemed that pledge, and worked to heal the deep wounds inflicted by his misguided policy priorities. The intolerance towards opposing views and political opponents is expressed in horrifying terms down the ladder. The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, vowed to take “revenge” against CAA-NRC protesters who turned violent. The Uttar Pradesh police have not explained satisfactorily how several people died of bullet injuries , while claiming that their personnel did not fire a single bullet. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA threatened to “wipe out” critics of CAA-NRC . Several other BJP functionaries have continued to make menacing statements regarding the NRC, even after the Prime Minister blamed the Opposition. The Prime Minister must demonstrate he is a man of his word, and that his writ runs in the party and the government.

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