Author and activist Arundhati Roy has denounced what she describes as misrepresentation of her speech during a protest at Delhi University on Wednesday on the National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The remarks that spurred calls for her arrest by some politicians were in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's December 22 speech at a Delhi rally, where he "blatantly lied to us about the NRC and the non-existence of detention centres," Ms Roy said in a statement on Friday.
"I said that as a response to those lies we should collectively enter ridiculous information when they came to gather our personal data for the NPR. What I was proposing was civil disobedience with a smile," she stated.
In the remarks shown on many TV channels on Thursday, Ms Roy says the NPR would serve as a database for the NRC and asks people to oppose it by giving wrong names and addresses.
The acclaimed author said all TV channels that were present had footage of the entire speech but did not air any of it. "They just excited themselves and everybody else by commenting on it and misrepresenting it and lying about it. This has led to calls for my arrest as well as TV crews laying siege to my home. Fortunately my speech it is up on YouTube," she said in her statement.
"My question is this: is it ok for the Prime Minister of this country to lie to us but a criminal offence and a security threat for us people to have a laugh? Amazing times. amazing mass media".
The NPR, sanctioned by the government earlier this week, is seen by critics to be a precursor to the NRC, an exercise to identify illegal migrants. Activists, opposition parties and students protesting across the country fear that the NRC, along with the new citizenship law, will be used as tools to target Muslims.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act makes religion a criterion for citizenship for the first time. The government says it will help non-Muslim minorities escaping religious persecution in three neighbouring nations to become Indian citizens. Opposition parties, activists and even some allies of the government say the law discriminates against Muslims and is completely against the principles of secularism and equality enshrined in the constitution.
PM Modi, in his speech on Sunday, denied that there was "any talk on NRC" since he came to power in 2014, contradicting Home Minister Amit Shah, who had said multiple times that the "NRC is coming and will be carried out across the nation".
"I want to tell the 130 crore citizens of India that since my government has come to power, since 2014, there has been no discussion on NRC anywhere. Only after the Supreme Court's order, this exercise was done for Assam," the Prime Minister said, accusing opposition parties including the Congress of spreading "lies" against his government.