Syed Khalid Saifullah, a techie and activist who's based in Hyderabad, has come up with an app to help citizens understand what documents they may need to prove their citizenship although the Centre is yet to specify this list. National Population Register (NPR) enumerators knocking on the door of homes in Telangana can also expect to be greeted with no entry signboards in at least a few households, thanks to his efforts. The posters that Syed has made have found wide acceptance among a section of residents from the city, and across districts in Telangana.
The poster, that is being widely shared on social media, reads, “Warning: NPR Enumerator GO BACK visit only after new 7 questions are removed".The posters, hung in front of homes, demand that the Central government remove questions seeking passport number, date of birth and place of birth of father and mother, Aadhaar, mobile, voter ID and driving licence numbers.
The NPR exercise is expected to begin across the country in April this year, and if one goes by earlier statements made by Home Minister Amit Shah, the NPR is a precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may require every Indian citizen to prove their citizenship. The NRC exercise carried out in the state of Assam led to 19 lakh persons begin left out of the final NRC list, with many from the state who could not provide their documents still languishing at detention centres.
TNM caught up with Syed, who has come up with these no entry posters and the app DefeatNRC.
“The government claims they are collecting this information for identifying scheme beneficiaries. Tell me, which scheme in this country can be availed only if you show your parents' date of birth and their place of birth? No such scheme exists in India,” says Syed, who has even announced that he will pay Rs 1 lakh to anyone who can show him such a scheme. “When such schemes don’t even exist, it’s clear that the government is collecting this information for the NRC itself,” he claims.
The techie says people from Kurnool, Karimnagar and other districts across Telangana have begun hanging these posters in front of their homes. "Even people from Kolkata are adopting these posters,” adds Syed.
The posters are gaining traction, with many Indians insisting that they will not show their documents to the NPR enumerators. However, Syed is also preparing for the eventuality when many Indians will end up showing their documents to the NPR enumerators. “Not everyone will have the courage to face the consequences of not showing their documents, some will,” says the techie.
(A resident of Karimnagar poses before poster in front of his residence)
To prepare the public for the NRC, Syed has come up with the DefeatNRC app.
“The app will help people create their family tree. We do not store* any data of the persons using the app,” he adds. The app was released on December 24, 2019, and has so far been downloaded 62,000 times in the Google Playstore.Users need not provide the details contained in documents to the app, the app only records if the user is in possession of the document or not.
Syed says he has modelled the app on the criteria for Indian citizenship based on the Citizenship Act 1955. He has also taken into account all the documents that people had to show to provide their citizenship in Assam.
“If you enter your information, the app will tell you with respect to NRC what all documents you may require and what will be pending. Say if someone enters their date of birth, then the app will ask you what documents you have to prove your place of birth as an Indian. Then the app will show you a list of the documents that will have a place of birth on them. The user can choose from the list based on the documents they have, the app will then show what all documents are in a pending state that the user will now need to prove citizenship. It will give people an idea of what they need to do next to get pending documents,” he adds.
With nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), NPA and the NRC and its potential impact on underprivileged communities, the BJP government has been mum about the draft rules for a nationwide NRC. Thus, presently, there is no clarity from the Centre on what documents Indians may require to prove their citizenship.
“If tomorrow the Central government says we will accept only a few and not all documents, then we will update the app with the list of documents that the government says will be accepted, and those that are not required will be removed from our list,” he says.
Apart from helping people build family trees and check if they have valid documents to prove their Indian citizenship, the app also has a protest calendar, based on the user’s constituency where they can join or help organise a protest.The app also has chat options, forms to obtain permission from the police for protests, ways to get legal assistance, and helps with creating posters.
Since its launch, Syed says he has been receiving calls from across the country through the app's toll-free number, with NRC related queries.
“In rural India, people are already facing harassment. There are goons going around villages threatening people that if you don’t show them their parents' documents, they will report them to the government. They are also collecting money from the poor,” he alleges.