The State government’s plan to extend the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to Karnataka has not come as a surprise to the Muslim community here. Although the formal announcement has triggered anxiety, community leaders have termed it a “political gimmick and diversionary tactic” by the BJP.
While community leaders have already started educating people to keep all their official documents in order, they are also calling upon people not to panic.
In fact, even as the Assam NRC was on, several audio and text messages by community leaders advising people to apply for a Indian passport were widely shared on WhatsApp groups, foreseeing the possibility of such an exercise elsewhere.
Advocate Akmal Rizvi from the Movement for Justice said, “It is a far-fetched idea which may not work in the near future going by the Assam experiment, where the NRC was first introduced in 1951. But it definitely it is an agenda of the BJP.”
Mohammed Saad Belgami, State president of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), has called upon people not to panic but at the same time ensure that all their identity documents are in order. “Through the Jamaat we are setting up Nagarika Seva Kendras in mosques across the State. These mosques can become nodal centres in facilitating people to obtain their documents.”
U. Nisar Ahmed, former Inspector-General of Police who now heads the National Centre for Research and Development, an NGO involved in community development, said a big issue to tackle would be lack of education and awareness. Quoting the 2011 Census, he said not more than 6.3% of the Muslim population has passed matriculation, which means 94% of the people are illiterate. “In such a scenario, how can we expect them to have all documents? We have been working in slums for the past several years and have been helping the residents in obtaining identity documents and availing government schemes,” he said.
A senior member of the Karnataka Muslim Muttahida Mahaz pointed out that while the transfer certificate from school can serve as a valid birth certificate for most, lakhs of students going to madrasas would have to get their birth identity documents readied. “Submitting a birth certificate is not a requirement for admission into a madrasa. It would be difficult to produce a birth certificate for most ulemas (Islamic scholars),” he said.