With Kerala having declared that it will not undertake NPR, which is to start in April, all eyes are on what other opposition parties will do. So far, Congress has opposed NPR on the ground that it sees it as a “precursor” to the National Register of Citizens. “We will pursue non-cooperation,” a senior Congress functionary said.
Since the exercise is to be carried out by state officials, lack of cooperation can fulfil the political objective without the party or states having to veto NPR on record. This will take opposition to NPR beyond party statements and resolutions.
However, when asked, Congress spokesman Kapil Sibal said, “The notification was issued for the NPR process to start on April 1, 2020. CAA can only be operationalised if you do a door-to-door enumeration under the NPR, which starts only on April 1. So, today it is not an issue.”
He added, “When the Supreme Court decides the matter (CAA) one way or the other, that will be the law of the country, like Ram Janmabhoomi. So once the SC declares the law, that is binding on everybody.”
The likely Congress stance on NPR comes after back-to-back red-flagging of the initiative by the opposition. On January 11, the Congress Working Committee brainstormed on CAA-NRC-NPR and demanded that “CAA should be withdrawn and the process of NPR be stopped forthwith”. Congress president Sonia Gandhi said, “Let us not be under any illusion… NPR 2020 is a disguised NRC.”
Two days later, a joint meeting of opposition parties passed a resolution that NPR be junked.
However, the tricky bit is that the “household survey” for the decennial Census and NPR are to be carried out together. Since the Census is untouched by the CAA-NPR-NRC controversy, the party appears to have been forced to find a way out.
NPR has emerged as a bone of contention because of questions like “parent’s place and date of birth”, with allegations that it was being done to lay the ground for NRC.
The passage of the CAA in Parliament triggered a controversy in view of home minister Amit Shah’s repeated assertions that NRC, a process of identifying illegal migrants, would follow suit. The opposition alleged the CAA and NRC together would discriminate against Muslims since CAA grants citizenship to migrants of all key faiths barring Islam.
After PM Narendra Modi said there had been no discussion on NRC, the focus shifted to NPR, with rivals alleging that questions being asked under the exercise smacked of NRC.