Opinion | Arundhati Roy’s faulty advice
When emotions run high, tempers need to be calmed. At such times, it does not help to have author and activist Arundhati Roy offering people bizarre advice on resisting the government’s efforts to create a database of all those who reside in India. If surveyors show up asking for details to fill the National Population Register (NPR), she reportedly said, people should supply fake data. According to her, they should cite their names as Ranga-Billa, the notorious kidnappers of the 1980s hanged for the murder of their victims, or Kungfu-Katta; as for their address, she suggested saying 7 Race Course Road, which used to be the Prime Minister’s office home till that street was renamed Lok Kalyan Marg. Non-cooperation of this sort, Roy seems to think, is a good way to resist discrimination. It is not.
The NPR, as the government has stated, is not linked to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a proposal that has evoked an all-India uproar, presumably because of how it was done in Assam, with people assumed to be non-citizens unless they could prove otherwise. The NPR is an extension of the census; it has a few extra data fields that one could refuse to fill, but would demand no back-up papers to support the data given. An NPR could be misused, yes, but there is nothing sinister about the state setting up such a database. It’s needed for the administration to function efficiently and provide special services to the needy.
Lying to the state would only make governance harder. Perhaps Roy should rethink her advice. Equally, maybe the government needs to ask itself why such suspicions have arisen. Back in 2014, as opposition parties claim, Kiren Rijiju, who was our minister of state for home affairs then, had stated in Parliament that the NPR was the “first step” towards an NRC. This suggests a link between the two exercises that dissenters have seized upon.