New Delhi: Noting that NRC in Assam has led to “bitter experience,” senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday said the National Population Register (NPR) of the BJP government “was clearly linked to the NRC” and asked why Home Minister Amit Shah was not stating in clear terms that the NRC exercise will not be carried out.

Former Home Minister Chidambaram told ANI in an exclusive interview that the NPR carried out by the UPA government was different from the NPR exercise being carried out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi government as six questions have been added.

He said the NPR exercise was stopped after the population census during the Congress-led UPA government.

“Go back to what we did and what we did not do. The NPR was given to Census Commissioner and Registrar General only in selected states. It was an aid to the Census of 2011. So we did NPR in 2010 as an aid to the Census of 2011. Once the census was completed we stopped the matter. We did not go further. We did not do NRC. We did not even begin to think of NRC. Today the context is very different. The BJP government has done an NRC in Assam,” he said.

The former Finance Minister said that the NRC in Assam had rendered over 19 lakh people “stateless”.

“We have with us a visible concrete example of what will happen if the NRC is done in a state like Assam,” he said.

Asked about the assurance of top leaders of government that NRC and NPR were not linked, Chidambaram said that the “highest quarters (in government) don’t inspire trust”.

“If the highest quarters inspired trust, we will accept that word. They don’t. NPR is clearly linked to NRC. Why did the Home Minister not say yesterday we are doing NPR; we will not do NRC? Why does he not say that? Let them say categorically that NRC is ruled out. Let them say it will never be done. It is the simple ten words. We only did NPR. It aided the census. We stopped with the census. We did not take even half a step forward,” he said.

Home Minister Amit Shah had told ANI earlier that NPR and NRC were not linked. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also said at a rally in the national capital last month that there had been no discussion on implementing NRC.

Chidambaram said the content of NPR carried out by the UPA government and that by the Modi government was very different both in “text and context”.

He said there were 15 questions in the NPR conducted during the UPA government but the BJP-led government has added questions like the place of the last residence, place of birth of father and mother and licence number.

“We asked questions in 15 fields. They have added six fields – what is your last place of residence, what is the place of birth of your father and mother, driving licence number, voter ID number, Aadhar number. Why are they asking all these things? Therefore, both the text and the context are very different. We have bitter experience of Assam NRC. Don’t compare NPR 2010 which was to aid the census with the NPR 2020, which is a step towards the NRC,” he said.

Chidambaram said if the BJP says the NPR 2010 was correct, it should stick to the same form. “Don’t go beyond the 15 fields. And announce that the NPR will not be done. Even yesterday the Home Minister refused to announce the NRC will not be done,” he said.

Shah had targeted the opposition parties over protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) during a rally at Jodhpur on Friday.

Chidambaram said Assam NRC was the elephant in the room and the government is pretending there is no problem.

“We have a bitter experience of Assam NRC. When we did NPR 2010, there was no Assam NRC. We did not have the bitter experience of 19,06,657 people being declared stateless. The elephant in the room is 19,06,657. Why do you ignore that elephant? That elephant is sitting there. In the face of that elephant, you see that elephant and you pretend that there is no problem,” he said.

Answering a query, he said the NPR done during the UPA government was helpful to the census because NPR data “is practically all the data that census requires.”

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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