By Asad Mirza
It seems the ruling class in India is trying to teach rudimentary alphabets to the public. First it coined CAA then NRC then NPR. Unlike the traditional alphabets the new alphabets have similar meaning. Whether it is CAA or NRC or the NPR, the goal is the same. It is mainly to harass the minorities and downtrodden section of society and to impose a particular ideology in the country.
The protests against the CAA started as soon as the news that the Bill has been given Presidential Assent became public. The first protestors were students, and within five days of the start of protests from Jamia, it spread to 22 campuses across India, medical and legal fraternity have also come out in protest against the CAA.
In reality every Indian and the minorities in particular are against the latest entrant in the list i.e the NPR. What they are against are the new inclusions related to your identity that have been introduced in NPR 2019-20. Indians have already gone through two phases of the NPR, once in 2010 and second time in 2015, but no one raised any objection as the information sought by the government in those two phases was not inquisitive about your personal details like the mobile number, email id etc. Moreover the first NPR was conducted along with the census and thus no one was against it.
But now with its agenda clear and the information sought being critical, people are up against it as they feel that it is an attack on their personal liberty and the information may be used against them e.g. in profiling an individual or a community. By itself no one is against providing this information. Countries like USA also have a register of citizens and everyone has a unique Social Identity number, but that system is linked to availing many beneficial schemes of the government like medical services or housing etc. As we don’t have any such schemes in India where every citizen is guaranteed of medical care or housing, people wonder why the government is hell bent on getting this additional data? And due to its track record the people are wary of providing these details. In fact they feel that after an uproar against the CAA and NRC, NPR is like trying to get entry through the backdoor to get your personal information.
Moreover, what is the need to collate all this information yet again? Most of the information is already available with the government in the form of Voter Identity database, Aadhar Card database, even with private telecom companies, So what is the need to gather it altogether yet again at a huge cost to the tax payer? NRC in Assam alone has cost INR 16,000 crores, spread over two years, so for every Indian the cost will be mind boggling, and the moot question is whether in the current economic slowdown, can the country afford it?
Further, the issue is not the process but the intent, for which it may be used. Data, which was supposed to be gathered through NRC, was set to be used for profiling different communities in India and take prejudiced actions against them. Through all these differently named schemes the government is trying to identify the real numbers, which it could easily do with the records already available with it, instead of polarising the country and dividing it into different enclaves.
Constitutional experts have already pointed out that if the NRC/NPR-in its current form, is implemented across the country then the plight of every citizen, be it Muslim or non-Muslim will be in peril, ultimately. First, the government will identify the ‘infiltrators’ as per its definition and then using CAA it will take action against those infiltrators. Thus, in fact the protests should be more against the NRC/NPR as that is the instrument, which will be used to identify the ‘infiltrators’ or non-Indians.
The government’s vicious Brahmanical ideology is attacking the very foundation of Indian democracy. Government is not bothered about the economy, which is in doldrums with mass unemployment and inflation making lives miserable for ordinary people. Every Indian who cares for democracy, freedom, secularism and equality should come together to resist this assault on the idea of a humane, pluralist and egalitarian India.
The spontaneous protests against CAA-NRC-NPR are going on. What initially started as a voice of the students became the voice of the community. So far these protests have continued without any apparent leadership, a true public protest. But now the time has come for the protestors to first of all stop these protests getting a communal identity, a theme on which most of the media is currently working. This could be achieved by inspiring people of all faith to join the protests. Secondly, these protests have also offered an opportunity to the polity of the country to establish once and for all that the Constitution of India is supreme. Let’s resolve to work together to establish a new India, which is free from all types of communalism and offers opportunity to every citizen to live with dignity in tranquillity.
Asad Mirza is a Sr journalist based in New Delhi.