CAA protest India 201912
Protesters arrive to participate in a rally against the amended Citizenship Act and NRC, at August Kranti Maidan in Mumbai, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. Image Credit: PTI

Patna: Fifty-five-year-old Syed Faqral Hasan doesn’t have his birth certificate. He doesn’t need any such document right now yet he is very anxious to get this.

Hasan, a resident of Phulwarisharif locality of Patna district in Bihar, applied for his birth certificate just four days back. “I have been told to procure it by my well-wishers without any further delay,” says Hasan standing in a long queue along with other residents on the Phulwarisharif block premises.

He is not alone. As such, there is a mad scramble among Muslims, many of them elderly citizens, to procure their birth certificates from the government office amid apprehensions of the new Citizenship law (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) aimed at identifying bona fide Indian citizens.

“To have the birth certificate is a must. Who knows when this document proves to be much helpful?” asks 24-year-old Raunak Afrin who also resides in the Muslim-dominated Phulwarisharif locality. Afrin has three sisters but they never cared for such certificate in the past. It’s after the passage of the new Citizenship bill and NRC rumours that they all have applied for their birth certificates.

Officials at the Phulwarisharif block office are amazed at the huge rush of the local residents, quite good number of them elderly citizens, standing in long queues and applying for birth certificates.

“We are startled at the rush of elderly citizens applying for birth certificates but we are issuing the certificates only after proper verification. Especially, we are deeply verifying the documents submitted by the elderly citizens before handing them the required certificates,” district statistics officer Mahesh Prasad told the media on Thursday. According to him, they have received huge applications from especially two blocks such as Phulwarisharif and Patna Sadar out of total 23 blocks in Patna district.

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Statistics officials said they received a record number of 21,000 applications on a single day on December 31, 2019 while they received a total of 2.88 million applications last year. They said the number of residents applying for birth certificates has registered a sudden jump soon after the Citizenship bill was passed by the Parliament in December last year.

According to officials, they received a total of 6,608 applications from Patna district in December last year, out of which around 1,000 applicants were in the age-group of 40 to 50. In January this year, the officials have received 1,333 applications of which 1082 applicants are in the age-group of 40 to 5 years. In November last year, the officials had received 4,622 such applications.

The mad scramble to have birth certificates continues despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejecting NRC talks as simply rumours.

“I want to tell the 130 crore citizens of India that since my government has come to power, there has been no discussion on NRC anywhere. Only after the SC order, this exercise was done for Assam. Lies are being spread,” the PM had announced at a BJP rally organised in Delhi last month.

“When NRC was being formulated, the Congress was in power, was Congress sleeping then? We haven’t made this law (NRC), it has not come in Parliament, nor the Cabinet, nor have any rules been formulated,” the PM explained, accusing his rivals of “misleading Muslims”.