India’s controversial citizenship law
January 2, 2020 - India’s National Population Register -- a database of residents in every state except Assam -- could pave the way for a pan-Indian National Register of Citizens (NRC). The tea-growing state implemented India’s first NRC in 1951.
The contentious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), has stoked concerns that Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wants to marginalise India’s 200 million-plus Muslim minority.
The CAA gives religious minority members -- Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists -- from three neighbouring Islamic countries a path to citizenship. However, Muslims must prove their Indian ancestry, a challenge in a nation where many people lack official documentation.
On December 24, India’s cabinet approved funds for the National Population Register-2020 (NPR-2020) -- Rs 87.54 billion ($1.23 billion) for conducting the fieldwork and Rs 39.41 billion ($553million) for updating the NPR.
Home Minister Amit Shah has issued a “2019 Model Detention Manual,” asking states to set up at least one detention centre for illegal migrants. Authorities have built detention centres near the cities of Mumbai and Bangalore, along with Kolkata and Bongaon in West Bengal, at Mapusa in Goa, and Lampur near Delhi.
Construction of a detention centre which can house up to 3,000 people is near completion in Assam’s Matia, the first of 10 new camps in the state. Six existing centres currently hold more than 1,000 detainees. Addressing an election rally in Delhi on December 22, Modi denied the existence of any detention centres.
“There are no detention centres. All these stories about detention centres are lies, lies and lies,” Modi said.