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Critics say the proposed survey and recently passed citizenship law, which excludes Muslims, will marginalize India’s 200 million Muslim citizens.
India’s federal cabinet approved funds Tuesday for a controversial census and population survey to be conducted in April 2020, amid fears from the minority Muslim population that the database could be used to build a citizens register.
The government approved 87.54 billion rupees (US$1.2 billion) for conducting the census and 39.41 billion rupees (US$553 million) for updating the National Population Register (NPR), Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar told reporters, adding that the census has no relation to the national register of citizens.
The census collects data on population, economic activity, social and cultural aspects, migration and demography, down to the lowest administrative level. The NPR is intended to create a comprehensive identity database including every resident of India.
“On its own, the [Citizenship Amendment Act] (CAA) won't affect Indians or Indian Muslims, but the government plans to implement the National Registry of Citizenship (NRC), requiring every Indian to provide proof of citizenship - birth certificate of their parents being born in India,” journalist Sharon Nadeem tweeted last week, echoing the worries of the Muslim population in India.
Nadeem refers to the CAA passed on Dec. 11, which provides non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who moved to the country before 2015 a pathway to citizenship.
Critics and opposition parties say the law, which excludes Muslims, is unconstitutional as it bases citizenship on people’s religion and will marginalize India’s 200 million Muslim citizens.
The law has sparked massive protests across the country, as hundreds of thousands of Indians have taken to the streets demanding far-right President Narendra Modi to revoke the legislation.
Clashes between the police and demonstrators have resulted in at least 21 people killed.
India's Supreme Court turned down a plea last week to halt implementation of the law but said it would hold hearings next month on the sweeping measure.