CAA, NRC: Mumbaikars Run Pillar To Post To Get Papers In Order

CAA, NRC: Mumbaikars Run Pillar To Post To Get Papers In Order

Lawyers said that there is now a rush to get citizenship papers, or at least make existing documents glitch-free, so that there are no legal problems during the creation of the NRC.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Friday, April 12, 2024, 08:28 PM IST
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With the enactment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in March 2024 and the possible enforcement of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), there are worries among Muslims that discrepancies in identity documents could lead to their exclusion from the citizenship list. Lawyers said that there is now a rush to get citizenship papers, or at least make existing documents glitch-free, so that there are no legal problems during the creation of the NRC.

During the 'Mumbai Baug' protests in Mumbai Central in January and February 2020 that emulated the agitation at Delhi's Shaheen Bagh against the CAA, lawyers started guiding local Muslims to get their identity documents in order. But the programme was cut short by the Covid restrictions.

Advocate Zubair Azmi, who has been helping residents of Madanpura in central Mumbai to get identity documents, said that during the Mumbai Baug gatherings, people who did not have birth certificates came to him for help. “The fear among the people was 'India se bahar kar denge' (We will be asked to leave India). People were desperate to get their identity documents in order,” said Azmi.

One of those who approached Azmi was Mohammed Ali, a resident of Mumbai Central. His wife Shakila, a retired school teacher, had lost her birth certificate when the family shifted to a new house. “We have passports and we have used them to travel abroad. But we were worried that this would not be enough to prove our citizenship,” said Ali.

Lawyers said that the CAA and NRC allow the use of different documents, including Aadhaar, PAN, voter's ID, and ration cards, passports and school documents, to authenticate one's claim of citizenship. People with at least some of these papers do not have to worry. The concern is that discrepancies in information and spellings on multiple documents could lead to harassment and legal problems when the NRC is created.

One project in Mumbai has been helping people correct the discrepancies in identity papers. Advocate Nadeem Siddiqui, whose 'Mera document Meri Pehchan' has helped over 40,000 people to correct and standardise names and other information on their identity documents since January 2022, said that while a majority of people have papers that can be used to prove their citizenship, a majority of documents have problems with spellings and information.

A birth certificate is not compulsory to prove citizenship, said Siddiqui. “The number of people excluded from the NRC has fallen from 180 lakh to 19 lakh after different stages of enumeration. The worry is about harassment if there are mistakes in the papers. Muslims are saying 'where will we go' if our papers are not in order,” Siddiqui added.

Many of those who have got their identity papers updated said that the CAA was not the only reason why they sought legal help. Raia Ansari, a retired teacher from Bhiwandi in Thane district, said, “The CAA has made us realise the importance of having proper identity documents.”

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