In October 2018, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav strongly supported the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, even coming up with a 3D formula — to detect (illegal migrants), delete (names from electoral rolls and other government documents) and deport (to parent country/ies).
Then, with NRC work on in full swing in Assam, under the supervision of the Supreme Court, the BJP had resolved to conduct the exercise on a pan-India basis, the seeds of which were sown 14 years earlier, on 7 January 2004, when, led by prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2003 making key changes to the law that was formulated way back in 1955.
It was for the first time the term “illegal migrant” became part of the law in this amendment. The law states:
(b)”illegal migrant” means a foreigner who has entered into India-(i) without a valid passport or other travel documents and such other document or authority as may be prescribed by or under any law in that behalf; or
(ii) with a valid passport or other travel documents and such other document or authority as may be prescribed by or under any law in that behalf but remains therein beyond the permitted period of time;’;
Another important component was the addition of the date 1 July 1987 on the basis of which deciding the citizenship became a factor.
(1) Except as provided in sub-section (2), every person born in India-(a) on or after the 26th day of January, 1950, but before the 1st day of July, 1987 ;
(b) on or after the 1st day of July, 1987 , but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth;
(c) on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, where-(i) both of his parents are citizens of India; or
(ii) one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.
Unlike in 2010, where the National Population Register did not seek information on the date and place of birth of the parents of an individual, the upcoming data will ask for this data.
The most important amendment to this Act in 2003 was the insertion of the need for the National Register of Indian Citizens, which is equivalent to the NRC conducted in Assam.
The law says: “The Registrar General of Citizen Registration shall establish and maintain the National Register of Indian Citizens. (2) The National Register of Indian Citizens shall be divided into sub-parts consisting of the State Register of Indian Citizens, the District Register of Indian Citizens, the Sub-district Register of Indian Citizens and the Local Register of Indian Citizens and shall contain such details as the Central Government may, by order, in consultation with the Registrar General of Citizen Registration, specify.“
It also says: “The Central Government shall, for the purpose of National Register of Indian Citizens, cause to carry throughout the country a house-to-house enumeration for collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual, residing in a local area including the Citizenship status.“
What surprised everyone was when the prime minister claimed that ever since his government first came to power in 2014, no discussions were held on a nationwide NRC. Starting from Union home minister Amit Shah, many BJP chief ministers have reiterated on a nationwide NRC at different points in time. This is what Shah had to say on a nationwide NRC on 1 May this year: