Help people to get documents to prove their Indian citizenship
THAT there are apprehensions about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Population Register and National Register of Citizens was evident from the large turnout at the Church-backed protest meet in Margao a few days ago. That people from different sections of society participated in the protest should make the state government think of engaging in allaying the apprehensions. Protests in the state have been peaceful. The protestors have vowed to continue their opposition to the moves of the government until the CAA, NPR and NRC were revoked. The protests in the state have aroused deep fears not only of the minorities but also of other sections of people who have questioned the constitutional validity of the CAA. Fears were expressed that various sections of society could suffer owing to their exclusion from the lists of citizens. There are apprehensions that the provisions could be used by corrupt officials to make fast bucks.
The tribal communities in the state too are opposed to implementation of CAA, NPR and NRC and have expressed fears that the implementation of the provisions would lead to deprivation of their rights and protection. The members of the tribal communities are of the opinion that they could be victims of faulty execution of the CAA, NPR and NRC and in the process would be deprived of the land under their occupation, forest and agricultural rights, besides losing their voting rights and liberty. What is worrying the tribals is that a big majority among them especially the older ones do not possess documents like birth certificates, etc as many among them never felt the need to own them to prove their existence in their own land. Besides, being illiterate they never got to check the details in whatever the documents they possessed and could run into trouble as many of them have now been made to realize that they had serious errors in documents like Aadhaar, PAN, voter, ration cards and even in their passports.
It is interesting to note that even in Goa, where the government authorities, including those during Portuguese rule, maintained records of births and deaths along with other relevant documents, there were many who did not figure in the records. The tribals in the state are fearing that they could meet the same fate as that of their counterparts in Assam. If this is the situation in a progressive state like Goa, one could imagine the status in bigger states where government offices were not easily accessible most people would not have taken the burden of travelling distances to maintain records of births and death and hence would now run the risk of losing their rights of being Indian citizenship. It is true that an overwhelming number of Goans have Aadhaar cards but given the fact that Aadhaar card being just a document of identity and not citizenship many could encounter challenges to prove their citizenship. People fear that they could be subjected to selective use of credentials while examining claims of citizenship.
Even as the fears over implementation of CAA, NPR and NRC grow among Goans, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has sought to assure Goans that they would not be harmed due to execution of the provisions. He has said that he was ready to debate on the issue with anyone. Oral assurance and debates would not allay the fears among various sections of the people. The authorities need to find ways and means to set the apprehensions among the people at rest. The governments in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is ruling have sought to “counter” the opponents of CAA, NPR and NRC by holding bigger rallies. These efforts should be genuine to listen to the reasons advanced and loudly aired by various sections of the people, and should not be seen as attempts to silence dissenting voices by calling them anti-nationals. Given the fact that absence of valid documents could lead to people being declared stateless, it would be better if the government takes steps to allay the fears by carrying out surveys to find out the number of people who lack the documents that were necessary to prove Indian citizenship and help them obtain the necessary evidence before implementing any of the policies.