DMK, Govt Cross Swords over NPR Exercise in Tamil Nadu Assembly

DMK, Govt Cross Swords over NPR Exercise in Tamil Nadu Assembly

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu assembly on Thursday witnessed a heated debate over the National Population Register (NPR) exercise with the DMK alleging that it does not feature Islamic festivals while the ruling AIADMK retorted that the manual of 2010 too did not have it.

Urging Chief Minister K Palaniswami to announce that NPR exercise will not be undertaken in the State, Leader of Opposition M K Stalin said the new enumeration form of the population drive posed several questions.

"The new NPR form seeks information like place of birth of parents and date of birth. If there are no proper certificates, the festival time of the people concerned are asked. In the list, Islamic festivals do not find a place. This by itself has exposed a religious divide," he said while raising the issue.

All the data needed to prepare the National Register for Citizens (NRC) were being asked in the NPR and the two exercises were no different and they are inter-related, he said.

"No one needs to think that this will only affect Muslims. This will for sure create several consequences for many, including Tamils," he alleged and demanded the government to assure that the NPR exercise would not be taken up in the state.

Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said, "We celebrate all festivals - Ramzan, Bakrid, Pongal and Deepavali." He assured that the government "is committed to the welfare of the minorities."

Revenue Minister R B Udhayakumar asserted that the NPR form "has nothing to do with festivals." Tracing the background to the exercise, he said the opposition was making claims for "votebank" which led to an apprehension that such a stand may lead to an unresolvable issue.

Only some features like Aadhar information were new in the NPR form and the state government has sought clarification from the Centre over such aspects but it was yet to get a reply.

On Islamic festivals, Udhayakumar said: "Islamic festivals do not find a place in the NPR manual released in 2010 too. All the festivals that found a place in the 2010 NPR Manual is featured in the 2020 manual also."

Further, there is a table in the handbook to compute Islamic year by comparing it with the Gregorian (English) calendar, he said.

In villages, some people may not know their date of birth and if they remembered the festival time during which they were born, the month of birth can be arrived at and the NPR handbook has guidelines for it, he said.

"Other than this, as I have already said NPR form has nothing to do with festivals." The Minister also asked, "who was in power at the Centre and Tamil Nadu in 2010."

The Congress-led UPA was in power at the Centre while DMK ruled Tamil Nadu that year. The DMK staged a walkout over the issue.