Bengaluru: With the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill being passed by Parliament and signed into law by President Ram Nath Kovind, there seems to be a sense of urgency among the Muslims of Karnataka to ensure their citizenship documents are valid and updated.
During Friday prayers, people are being asked to update all their records at assistance centres that have been opened in front of mosques in the state, given the ruling BJP’s insistence on a country-wide National Register of Citizens process. The centres have been opened up this week at the initiative of community leaders, mosques and the Karnataka State Board of Wakfs.
These assistance centres are open to Muslim and non-Muslim families, who are being educated on the various documents they need to have in order — from Aadhaar cards to birth and death certificates.
Wakf board’s notification
The BJP government in Karnataka has said it will implement the NRC as soon as it is done nationwide, with Deputy Chief Minister C.N. Ashwathnarayan saying Indian minorities need not worry about their safety.
“We are only worried about minorities from countries surrounding India, because those countries have become religious states. There is no liberty or secularism in those surrounding countries. So, when they are being persecuted in their country, they can come to our country and we will make provisions for them, but they should live here legally and not as illegal immigrants,” said Ashwathnarayan.
Soon after, the wakf board issued a notification asking all mosques in Karnataka to register all local Muslim families and advise them to update their documents which include their birth certificate, Aadhaar card, voter ID card, driving licence, passport, residence proof from before 1951, land and tenant records, among other things.
Wakf board administrator A.B. Ibrahim, in his letter, said: “It is proposed to have a register in every masjid containing the details along with documents such as birth certificates, voter ID, Aadhaar, ration and PAN cards, etc. The register shall have all the details, and masjids in cities can also make and store soft copies.”
Situation after Friday prayers
Based on this letter, mosques have begun circulating a pre-NRC assessment form, “which helps in validating the readiness to encounter arious national or state level enrolments and verifications”. This form, mosque officials claim, will also help the applicants trace their family tree and establish their nativity.
Officials at the Jamia Masjid at Bengaluru’s City Market told ThePrint that the exercise was launched so that in case an NRC process begins, it would not cause unnecessary trouble to the people.
“We are Hindustani first, and as a Hindustani, our documents should be verified and correct. We cannot have a situation where our name varies from that mentioned in the Aadhaar card or voter ID card or passport,” Maulana Imran Masood, the chief imam at the mosque, said during Friday prayers.
“Since we have a lot of people who are illiterate and feel that ‘getting one square meal is enough, why worry about our documents’, I would like to tell all of you that it is not acceptable.”
Twenty-three-year-old Ayesha came to the assistance centre Friday because there are spelling mistakes in her Aadhaar and voter ID cards. She told ThePrint that her father had advised her to come to the centre, because if their documents were not in order, they would lose their citizenship.
“I am studying medicine and want to study abroad. I don’t want any issues coming in the way of my admissions,” Ayesha said.
Sohail, secretary of the Haji Sir Ismail Mosque Committee in the Frazer Town locality, added: “Until now, we have issued 6,000 forms. We have had a two-day camp and nearly 2,000 people have been given guidance.”
Families have begun approaching notaries for affidavits with their family trees to prove their citizenship, said Junaid Ahmed, a volunteer at the Frazer Town mosque.
“The response of the people has been overwhelming and we are expecting more registrations. There is more awareness now. Most of the people have their documents, but we have seen some documents have minor mistakes in spellings or dates of birth. All this is getting regularised easily,” Ahmed said.