The National Population Register (NPR) a process that appears to have been conflated with the Census, allegedly in a sinister bid to set apart people the regime views as outsiders, is now being given a makeover in a purported attempt to score political brownie points in upcoming elections in two key states.
According to the official website of the Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India, the demographic particulars to be collected via NPR are listed as follows:
Name of person
Relationship to head of household
Spouse’s name (if married)
Date of Birth
Place of birth
Nationality (as declared)
Present address of usual residence
Duration of stay at present address
Permanent residential address
It is noteworthy that date and place of birth of parents, as well as questions about mother tongue have been omitted from this list. However, one cannot ignore that the point about nationality still says ‘as declared’ as if to snidely cast aspersions on the legitimacy of the respondent’s claim. It is also noteworthy that revealing one’s Aadhar number remains optional.
SabrangIndia had previously reported on how NPR in the new format was trying to gather more personal data than the 2010 version. We had reported on how special notes had been made about nationality and mother tongue in the instruction manual. There is a special note in the “nationality” section which reads “Nationality recorded is as declared by the respondent. This does not confer any right to Indian Citizenship”. There is also a special note under the “mother tongue” section, that says, “If you have reasons to suspect that in any area due to any organised movement, the mother tongue is not being truthfully returned, you should record the mother tongue as actually returned by the respondent and make a report to your supervisory officers for verification.”
The NPR along with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), had allegedly formed the three-point divisive agenda of the regime and had drawn sharp criticism and led to nationwide protests for months starting late 2019 and coming to an abrupt halt only when the Covid-19 outbreak necessitated a nationwide lockdown. In fact, 11 states including Jharkhand, Telangana, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal and Delhi had passed resolutions against the NPR. In fact, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had gone on record to say that NPR cannot be allowed in his state in the form that included the controversial questions and can only be permitted if conducted as per the 2011 format.
In light of this and the upcoming elections in Bihar and West Bengal, it is clear that the decision to quietly revert to the old format was taken with political considerations in mind. It is no secret that Mamata Banerjee has been a vocal opponent of the NPR-NRC-CAA, but Nitish Kumar has been no pushover either. Kumar enjoys an unparalleled clout in Bihar and his support is key to maintaining control in the state.
Bihar goes to polls in October-November 2020 and BJP president JP Nadda has already announced Nitish Kumar as Chief Ministerial candidate. The Bihar Assembly has 243 seats and at present an alliance comprising the Janata Dal -United (JD-U), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) along with five independents have the majority.
West Bengal is expected to go to polls in 2021. This state has been coveted by the BJP for decades and political fates of contenders remain volatile amidst a history of violent attacks on rivals, communal conflagrations and allegations of foreigners infiltrating into the country through the state’s allegedly porous borders. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already been targeted many times with communal slurs for her unwavering support of minorities.