At a recent seminar organized by Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas at Social Development Centre in Ranchi, CJP secretary Teesta Setalvad deconstructed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Population Register (NPR) to showcase just how they were just a part of the regime’s divisive agenda.
The seminar had been organised to discuss the growing attacks on citizens’ rights and constitutional values on January 20. Other speakers at the event were Jean Drèze, well known economist who is also a visiting professor at Ranchi University and Shashikant Senthil, a 2009 batch Karnataka cadre IAS officer who quit the services last year.
Teesta Setalvad talked about the horrors faced by residents of Assam in order to prove their citizenship under the NRC exercise conducted in the state. She informed the participants that of the 3.20 crore population of Assam, 19 lakh people were excluded from the NRC. As per official estimates, the government spent Rs 1220 crores and utilized 52,000 to carry out the NRC in Assam. Apart from these public resources, residents of the Assam spent Rs 22,400 crores from their own pockets. The entire process has exacerbated the economic and mental hardships of lakhs of people in Assam. At least a hundred deaths in the state are associated with the NRC exercise; people committed suicide due to distress, died due to a heart attack, or languished in detention centres.
Regarding the CAA, NRC and NPR, Setalvad said, “It is based on wrong intention, wrong rationale and wrong method”. She said that the Constituent Assembly had debated for months on the basic structure of the Constitution and had clearly rejected religious nationalism as the basis of this country. “CAA is unconstitutional as it makes religion the basis of citizenship,”she said. While CAA is unconstitutional, NRC and NPR open ways for harassing people of specific communities.
Jean Drèze while speaking about CAA-NPR-NRC said that the NRC is like a citizenship examination. The first step in the exam is the NPR exercise, which is very different from an ordinary population census.
Shashikant Senthil, who had quit the services because ‘fundamental building blocks of diverse democracy are being compromised’ said that CAA-NRC-NPR is another step towards fascism. It is being used to target Muslims and present them as the group responsible for all the issues. Comparing to the anti-poor demonitisation, he called the CAA-NRC policy as “decitizenisation”.
All the speakers called the CAA as unconstitutional and called for people to exercise their democratic right to protest peacefully against CAA, NRC and NPR.
A resolution was passed at the end of the seminar. The resolution called for
1) repealing CAA and not implementing NRC and NPR as they are unconstitutional and against the spirit of India,
2) demanding that Jharkhand government pass a resolution against CAA and announce non-implementation of NRC and NPR in the state,
3) refusing to give any information during NPR-NRC process to prove citizenship,
4) demanding that central government immediately remove all restrictions on Constitutional rights of people and on modes of communication, release all political prisoners, make Jammu and Kashmir a full state again and conduct state elections.
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