At least 100 people in a Hyderabad neighbourhood have received notice by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to verify their Aadhaar enrolment documents in person or face a suspension or cancellation of their 12-digit identity number that underpins access to government subsidies.
The matter first appeared when a 40-year-old autorickshaw driver Mohd Sattar Khan received a letter where he was asked to appear before a UIDAI official on February 20 with all necessary documents in original to prove all his claims of Indian citizenship, reports Hindustan Times.
"If you are not an Indian national, prove that you have entered the territory of India legally and your stay is valid," the notice, served under Rule 30 (Chapter VI) of Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations, 2016, said. The notice also mentioned a "complaint/objection", without specifying who objected to Khan's Aadhaar enrolment.
The UIDAI on Tuesday issued a statement saying that its Hyderabad office received reports from the state police that 127 people obtained Aadhaar "on false pretences" and were illegal immigrants.
"In the notices, the Hyderabadi residents, 127 in number, were asked to appear before the deputy director on 20th February for a personal hearing. Since it may take them some more time to collect the original documents that they had submitted for obtaining Aadhaar, as informed by the state police, the UIDAI has postponed the personal hearing to May 2020," the agency said.
"...Aadhaar has got nothing to do with the citizenship issue as such. Aadhaar is not a document of citizenship and UIDAI has been mandated under the Aadhaar Act to ascertain residency of a person in India for 182 days prior to applying for Aadhaar. Also, the Supreme Court of India in its landmark decision has directed UIDAI not to issue Aadhaar to illegal immigrants," it also said.
Khan was not available for comment but his lawyer Muzafferullah Khan said they will challenge the notice in the Telangana high court, while also appearing before the UIDAI. "They were originally staying at Sanathnagar, where Allwyn factory was located, and later, they moved to the old city. How can he be suspected to be foreign national?" he said.
The incident comes amid heightened apprehension among people, especially those from minority communities, of an identification exercise by the government that could target them if the National Register of Citizens is created across the country.
What is needed to prove citizenship in the state
In a recent order, the Gauhati High Court rejected the petition of a woman declared foreigner by a tribunal in Assam by stating that land revenue paying receipts, Permanent Account Number (PAN) card and bank documents don't prove citizenship.
The court also dismissed the petition of Jabeda Begum as she "failed to prove her linkage with her projected parents and her projected brother," reports Hindustan Times.
In August last year, after a five-year process supervised by the Supreme Court, the updated NRC of Assam, which excluded names of 19 lakh applicants (of the 3.3 crore who applied) was published.
The updated NRC has its genesis in the Assam Accord of 1985 signed after a six-year-long agitation against illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which set March 24, 1971, as the date for determining citizenship in the state.
To prove citizenship for inclusion in NRC applicants had to submit any one of the 14 documents issued before March 24, 1971, which had either their names or names of their ancestor to prove residence in Assam up to that date.
These documents were 1951 NRC, electoral rolls till March 24, 1971, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate, permanent resident certificate, refugee registration certificate, passport, insurance policy, government-issued license or certificate, proof of employment, bank or post office accounts, birth certificate, education certificates or documents of court records or processes.
Further, two more supplementary documents - certificates issued by circle officer or gram panchayat secretary to married women migrating after marriage (before or after March 24, 1971) and ration card issued prior to March 24, 1971 - could be added by applicants. But these two documents were to be accepted only if applicants had one of the 14 documents listed above.
For those applicants who names were not in the 14 documents, they have to submit eight different documents to establish relationship with an ancestor (father, mother, grandfather, grandmother etc.) whose names were included in any one of the 14 documents prior to March 24, 1971.
These documents were birth certificate, land records, examination certificates, bank, insurance police or post office records, certificate issued by circle officer or gram panchayat secretary (in case of married woman), name in electoral roll, ration card or any other legally acceptable document.
Those applicants who failed to furnish these documents were excluded from the NRC list. But non-inclusion doesn't make them non-citizens. These applicants have the provision of appealing their cases in foreigners' tribunals, High Court and Supreme Court to prove citizenship.