Amid vehement opposition related to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its instruction manual for the National Population Register (NPR) 2020 for enumerators and supervisors has used only Hindu and Sikh religious festival holidays as a reference point to assist supervisors in ascertaining the date of birth of people who may not know it exactly.
There is no mention of Muslim holidays in the list given in the NPR 2020 instruction manual.
— Saba Naqvi (@_sabanaqvi) December 29, 2019
The list of holidays, as it appears in the instruction manual, is enough to explain the motive behind #NPR. It is religion specific as well as nationality centric. #Bengal is a common victim.Why? @narendramodi. pic.twitter.com/fwWklFZCiN
— Dr.Sujan Chakraborty (@Sujan_Speak) January 2, 2020
According to the manual, “Date of birth is one of the important items of information being collected in the NPR. In most of the cases, the date of birth of a person may be known. In case, the respondent does not know the exact date of birth, the same could be ascertained from documents such as birth certificate, School Leaving Certificate or any other relevant document like Aadhaar Card, Voter ID card, PAN card, Passport etc. In some cases, the horoscope (Janampatry) may contain the date of birth in English or in the local language. In case it is written according to the local calendar then you might have to convert the same into the English (Gregorgian) calendar. In order to assist you, the conversion sheet is given in the Annex III.”
The Annex III lists the years according to the English calendar, Saka, Islamic, Vikram Samvat and Bengali local calendars and the manual advises a step-by-step process to record the year of birth.
“If the informant tells only the year of birth but is not sure about the month of birth, ask whether the birth was before the rainy season or not. If the birth was before the rainy reason, you may further ask whether the birth was in the month during which some important festivals like New Year’s Day, Guru Gobind Singh Jayanti, Makara Sankranti, Pongal, Republic Day, Basant Panchami, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati Jayanti, Maha Shivratri, Holi, Gudi Padwa, Ramnavmi, Vaisakhi, Bihu, Mahabir Jayanti, Good Friday Budh Purnima are celebrated and estimate the month of birth. Similarly, if the birth was during or after the rainy reason, you may probe and estimate the month of birth by asking whether the birth was in the month during which some important festivals like, Nagapanchami, Janamashtmi, Raksha Bandhan, Independence Day, Ganesh Chaturthi, Onam, Dussehra, Gandhi Jayanti, Diwali, Bhai Duj, Maharishi Valmiki Jayanti, Chhath Puja, Guru Nanak Jayanti, Ayyappa Festival, Christmas festival are celebrated. For your convenience, a list of important Festivals and corresponding Gregorian months in which they fall is given at Annex V.”
The Annex V lists around 30 festivals / holidays corresponding to the English calendar. In it are listed Hindu and Sikh holidays and even Christmas and Good Friday, leaving out all Muslim holidays, especially when there are at least five regional and national holidays for the festivals of Muharram, Jamat ul Vida, Ramzan, Bakri Id and one to celebrate the birth of the Prophet among others. Though the Muslims follow the lunar calendar, it is not a strong enough reason to exclude the holidays as a reference point.
In a clarification regarding the Annex V, the MHA has said, “There have been queries from general public with regard to Annex V ‘Important Festivals corresponding to English/Gregorian Months’ on page 32 of the NPR Manual 2020 for Enumerators and Supervisors. It has been observed that none of the Muslim festivals are mentioned in the list of Indian festivals in this Annex. In this regard, it is to be noted that this Annex V is to be read along with pages 15, 16, 17 of the manual which deals with Question No 5 on date of birth. The purpose of this Annex is to help the enumerators to approximate the month of birth of the respondent. Particular attention is invited to the following para at page 16.”
It was also brought to everyone’s notice that the same list of festivals was also used in the 2011 NPR instruction manual as well.
— Marya Shakil (@maryashakil) December 29, 2019
As to why Muslim festivals have been left out of the list, the response of the MHA seems to have been offered just for optics. The response itself is not an adequate answer as it fails to provide a logical explanation for the question being asked in the first place.
If the MHA claims that the dates of the Muslim festivals are dynamic, how will they justify the inclusion of Hindu festivals of Ganesh Chaturthi and Diwali whose dates keep changing and which also fall in different months each year?