AZADI: Goa has been among the states that has protested against the CAA in a massive rally held at the Azad Maidan under the leadership of Arvind Bhatikat. The Social Justice and Peace forum and the National Confederation of Human Rights also held a public meeting at the Lohiya Maidan in South Goa on Friday 24, 2020.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
The Countdown for the National Population Register (NPR) has started. The NPR in Goa will be held from April 16, 2020 to May 30, 2020. Independently, the house listing survey for the 2021 census will start from February 2021. The trials have shown that several lakh illiterate people living in rural areas do not even know their date of birth, leave alone parent’s date and place of birth.
DIKSHA Talaulikar, an 8th class student of the Maria Bombino High School at Cuncolim in South Goa, said at a school function that the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) amounts to murder of the Constitution and its values. Similarly the National Population Register (NPR), the survey for which begins on April 1, 2020 is targeted at minority communities and tribal populations. The National Population (NPR) must be distinguished both from the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and The National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the Decennial Census carried out every ten years. The CAA seeks to confer Indian citizenship on Hindus, Catholics Buddhists, Parsis and all other non-Muslim communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The CAA, as young Diksha, the 8th standard student from Cuncolim rightly pointed out, violates the Constitution as it exempts Muslims from any citizenship in India. The exclusion of any religious community with any Parliamentary Act or law is against the spirit of the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens irrespective of caste, community or creed. It guarantees right of worship to all citizens be they Hindu, Catholic, Muslim or any other citizens residing in India as citizens and it does not discriminate against Muslims.
The NRC was first initiated in Assam to identify the millions of Bangladeshis who had taken refuge in India. Subsequently, when the Assam government forms were collected and it was learned that majority of refugees in Assam were Hindus and not Muslims as they suspected, the NRC was amended to specifically exclude the Muslim refugees. Lakhs of Muslims have been confined to camps and they are to be sent back to Bangladesh.
In view of the wave of protests against the National Register of Citizens, the government re-introduced it as the National Population Register (NPR). The NPR was entirely unnecessary as the decennial census which is held once in ten years was in any case scheduled for 2021.
baap dada ka naam
The Modi government has been arguing that the National Population Register was actually initiated by the Congress under the prime ministership of Manmohan Singh. This is admittedly true but the Narendra Modi- Amit Shah combine have made major changes to Manmohan Singh’s National Population Register (NPR) to make it an alternative to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The Manmohan Singh National Population Register had only 14 questions. The Modi-Shah NPR has added seven questions which the majority of Indians find objectionable.
Manmohan Singh’s NPR only wanted your date and place of birth. Which is reasonable because most people are likely to know their date and place of birth. But there are millions of tribals and people born at home in villages who do not know their date of birth. If they asked the lady might say “I was born around the time I had my first child…” The Modi-Shah questionnaire announced by Prakash Javadekar seeks the name of both mother and father in addition of that of spouse. I am sure like me a hundred crore or more of the 150 crore Indians will not know their parents’ date of birth.
In a country like India educated parents and now even uneducated parents migrated to cities to register the birth of their child and keep the documents carefully to send them to school or to claim benefits that the Central or State government might provide. Such as in the case of Goa not only native Goans but migrants also want to take advantage of the Ladli Laxmi, Grah Aadhaar and the health schemes introduced by the Center and State as well as the Bal Bhavan facilities where the main attraction is not study but collection of food grains and other provisions offered. But it is extremely unlikely that many of the migrant people will know the name of their parents or grandparents. This applies not only to the Muslim minority but also the Schedule Castes and Tribes. I did not mention Christians deliberately as the Church keeps a record of marriage and birth of members of the community. For those who do not have a birth certificate all is not lost. They can get duplicate birth certificate even online. Which is more difficult than getting it off line for the illiterate who do not know what computers are. But I doubt whether they can get the date and place of birth of their parents and grandparents online or offline. The process for getting a duplicate certificate is to swear an affidavit that the person concerned was born on the day he claims to have been born. The affidavits have to be certified by prominent members of the community like the head of the tribe in the case of Schedule Tribes.
gaudis without DOB
The Schedule Tribes in Goa includes the Gaudi, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar (not yet notified by the Center), the disputes within the community are resolved by the Budhant who is the head of the community. Getting a duplicate certificate even for yourself is a very tedious process as I can testify. To get birth certificate for my Gaudi maid from Aivao village I had to get an affidavit made which was approved by Guru Shirodkar who was the leader of the community. After the affidavit was confirmed by him I had to submit it to the Mamladar with eight witnesses.
PARENTS BIRTH UNKNOWN
In the case of those like me who does not know the date of birth of either parents, I do not know what reply I will give the surveyor when he or she comes calling. In India and many third world countries it is the parents who maintain if at all the documents of the children. I have not known of any case where the parents ask the children to look after documents they have, unless it is for property documents. The worst affected by the requirement that they should produce not only their birth certificate but that of their parents will be the ST people who comprise 12% of the State’s population. Among the Goan tribes the Gaudis, Kunbis and Velips are also included and are entitled to benefits of the tribes registered in the Central list. The benefits that the tribes enjoys under the notified tribes act has been considerably diluted by every forward community like the Marathas in Maharashtra and Jats in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan demanding the status of other backward classes to avail of admission to colleges and government jobs.
In a place like Tamil Nadu, where the reservations for all communities other than Brahmins is 98%, it is impossible for a Brahmin to get into medical or engineering college, let along get a government job.
PROOF OF RESIDENCE
The other new question which has been objected to is the inclusion of the last place of residence. To be more specific the question asked whether you have stayed at your present residence for more than six months or intend to stay for more than six months. For the large number of migrants who are staying as tenants or mundkar, this will be a major problem. Earlier the mundkars in Goa complained about being treated badly by landlord bhatkar.
Now it is the turn of the mundkar to exploit migrants. Under the Mundkar Act passed by the Dayanand Bandodkar government, all land tilled by the tenant has to be transferred to him at a nominal price. Similarly mundkar who were house servants of the bhatkar were given some land to build their huts. Under the Mundkar Act they are entitled to 250 meters in rural areas and 150 meters in urban areas, which many bhatkar and mundkar may not have.
What the mundkar are doing is building small cubicles of 10 feet by 5 feet and renting these out to migrants who form more than 50% of Goa’s population now. They are unlikely to be able to produce any proof of residence as their landlords are not likely to sign a leave and license agreement with them or give them their own electric meters. The question on last place of residence is also to check out migration patterns in the country.
AADHaAR CARD AGAIN
In addition to date of birth of person and his/her parents and place of birth, the new form will also seek Aadhaar ID, Vote ID, driving license number and mobile number. The question has been asked as to why the NRP should ask for Aadhaar card as it already has the information. In fact all information on Aadhaar card also includes biometrics identification which is stored in a giant server managed by Infosys. By demanding your mobile number and voter ID the BJP is not only further invading your privacy but strengthening their data bank for the next Parliamentary and Assembly Elections. Questions like last place of residence gives them an idea of which communities to target in which State. For instance in Goa it is quite common for a minister from Karnataka to campaign for candidates who have a large Karnataka population base. Information on the voter ID will also allow the government to check whether there has been duplication of voters ID. In many cases migrants vote in more than one place as election are not held simultaneously.
WHY DUPLICATE CENSUS
The million dollar question is why should the government conduct a survey to prepare a National Peoples Register when the census is scheduled to be held next year? The census is much more comprehensive then either the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and seeks information to build a profile of the socioeconomic status of the country. Obviously the NPR is being prepared as a substitute for the National Register of Citizens.
In theory the government claims that you do not have to provide proof of the claims we make. This is totally untrue because if you give the wrong date of birth or place of residence it can be confirmed and you will be put into the doubtful citizen category. In practice you have no choice but to answer all the 21 question that you will be asked during the NPR.
There is a rumour going around that unlike the census which is conducted by the register general, the NPR will be conducted by the RSS cadres. This may be part of the Modi-Shah strategy to retain power not only in the next elections but banish elections altogether.
WOMEN LEAD PROTEST
The most heartening aspect of the ongoing protest is that it is being led by women. For the first time in the country both educated and uneducated women have been sitting in an ongoing now month long protest in Delhi. They have come from all parts of the country and include students, professional housewives and even children. They have been joined by the Sikh community which runs the langar to feed the agitators. This shows that our people are aware of what is happening and are willing to protect the Constitution with their lives.
As the brave Goan girl from Cuncolim pointed out Atal Bihari Vajpayee had himself declared that what makes India unique is that it is a secular country. Diksha Talaulikar even pointed out the major role played by Indian Muslims in our national history. We had Air Force Chief Air Marshal Latif, and the father of the nuclear bomb, and India’s space adventurer was the late President Abdul Kalam, the first Muslim president of the country. Which proves that no government before Narendra Modi and Amit Shah came along had discriminated or intimidated the Muslim minorities of India.