NEW DELHI: Representatives of civil society organisations and rights activists including Harsh Mander and Yogendra Yadav on Saturday called for boycott of the National Population Register (NPR) and demanded that it be delinked from the census.
Mander said Home Minister Amit Shah must ensure that the law is amended to ensure that providing information in NPR, which he claimed was a "divisive" exercise, is voluntary and that no one would be penalised for failing to provide the details.
"They said illegal citizens will be identified through NRC, but to identify them NPR is the first step. This was made clear in the law," Mander said, referring to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
He said there was fear among people with regard to citizenship and it can be alleviated only when the rules are changed and the mention of NPR is removed.
"No announcement is bigger than the law. We will be relieved of this fear only when the government changes the law. Even if we believe in your words, perhaps somebody else in the future may implement them," he said.
The alliance of the rights organisations also demanded the "legalisation and formalisation" of the Home Minister's statement given in Rajya Sabha on Thursday in the context of NPR and "doubtful citizens".
Yadav asked Shah to give in writing what he promised in the Rajya Sabha.
Shah had said in the Upper House of Parliament that no citizen will be marked "D" or "doubtful" during the NPR exercise, which starts across the country from April 1.
"I want to set the record straight. No document will be required to be furnished in the NPR exercise. No one will be required to give information which is not there," he had said.
Yadav said the Home Minister must ensure that the law is amended to "remove any reference to NPR".
"Alternatively, the government may delete Rule 3 (5), 4 (3), 4(4) which allow NPR to be used for identifying citizens as doubtful and their deletion from the NRC.
The government may also suitably amend Rule 7(2) and 17 to ensure that providing information in NPR is voluntary and that no one would be penalised for failure to provide information," he said.
Yadav added that the civil organisations are opposed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), the NPR, and the NRC as these are "divisive and discriminatory".
"These are against the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution and antithetical to the ethos of our freedom struggle and civilisational values," the former Aam Aadmi Party leader said.
Mander also said clubbing the NPR exercise with the census puts confidentiality at risk.
"The government has linked the NPR with the census. Census is a sacrosanct exercise, the information given by a citizen under the census is confidential. But on the other hand, the NPR data will be made public. This is inherently wrong," he said.
"There are a lot of people of the country who are scared today that the government will take away their citizenship. Whether this fear is valid or not, but the fear is there. And it is the government's job to rid them of this fear," he said.
Representatives of civil rights organisations such as We the People of India and Alliance Against CAA-NRC-NPR were also present at the conference.
The groups said they will withdraw the appeal for NPR's boycott "as soon as the Union Government carries out the amendments".
However, the movement against CAA and NRC and the "entire discriminatory citizenship regime shall continue in a peaceful, non-violent and democratic manner," they said.