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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Forum of civil society members slam Centre for introducing National Register of Citizens through backdoor

The Joint Forum Against NRC, a platform of mass organisations, held a news conference and came down heavily on Modi govt for allegedly creating confusion by deactivating Aadhaar numbers of Bengal residents

Saibal Gupta, Subhashish Chaudhuri Calcutta Published 25.02.24, 07:42 AM
Representatives of the Joint Forum Against NRC speak to the media in Calcutta on Saturday

Representatives of the Joint Forum Against NRC speak to the media in Calcutta on Saturday

A forum of civil society members has accused the Centre of introducing the National Register of Citizens through the “backdoor” amid the political row over the sudden deactivation of scores of Aadhaar numbers in Bengal.

The Joint Forum Against NRC, a platform of mass organisations, held a news conference here on Saturday and came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating confusion by deactivating Aadhaar numbers of residents of Bengal.

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“The Modi government’s ulterior motive is to introduce Assam-like NRC in Bengal to pursue its divisive politics over citizenship and the deactivation of Aadhaar is the first step towards that objective,” the forum’s convenor, Prasenjit Bose, said.

The forum has written a detailed letter to the CEO of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which issues Aadhaar numbers, demanding that the deactivation be reversed.

Several individuals in Bengal received letters from the UIDAI this month, notifying them that their Aadhaar numbers had been deactivated under Regulation 28A of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations, 2016. Those who received such letters are mostly residents of border districts like North 24-Parganas, Nadia, Malda, South Dinajpur, and Cooch Behar and even East Burdwan.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the deactivation was a tactic by the central government to push for the implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She also launched the “Aadhaar Grievance Portal of West Bengal Government” and assured the aggrieved people of providing alternative cards for accessing welfare schemes launched by the state government.

Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari criticised the chief minister for her promise to provide alternative cards and alleged that it was an unauthorised interference in a matter on the Union List under the 7th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. He also criticised Mamata for allegedly spreading panic among the state’s residents by promoting politically motivated misinformation.

The BJP came up with a damage control strategy and clarified that the Aadhar cards were deactivated because of a technical error. Union minister of state for ports, shipping and waterways, Shantanu Thakur, assured the people that all affected cards would be reactivated in the coming days.

The UIDAI authorities, however, came up with a different clarification. In a media release, the authority said no Aadhaar number had been cancelled. In the course of activities undertaken to keep the Aadhaar database updated, intimations are issued from time to time to Aadhaar number holders. This does not imply that there was any technical error, as claimed by the Union minister.

In the news conference organised by the Joint Forum Against NRC, several speakers drilled holes into the claims made by the BJP and the UIDAI. “Aadhaar was created to facilitate efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of publicly funded subsidies, benefits and services. The Aadhaar authority has no power to determine and regulate citizenship,” said Jhuma Sen, a Calcutta High Court lawyer.

Other members of the forum questioned the legality of Section 28A of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulation Act, 2016, which had been introduced through an amendment in September last year. This newly added section empowers the Aadhaar authority to identify “foreign nationals” and deactivate their Aadhaar numbers.

“Why are the people of the Matua community only receiving these notices from the Aadhaar authority?” asked Saradindu Biswas from Jai Bhim India Network.

“If the UIDAI does not annul Regulation 28A, we shall be forced to challenge it in the court,” he added.

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