Akhilesh Yadav will be "the first not to fill any form" circulated as part of the controversial NPR (National Population Register) exercise cleared by the Union Cabinet earlier this week. Addressing a meeting of Samajwadi Party leaders in Lucknow today, the former Chief Minister also challenged people protesting the NPR to follow suit. "If need arises, I will be the first one who will not fill any form, but the question is if you will support or not?" Mr Yadav, who also hit out at the centre's NRC (National Register of Citizens) plans, asked.
"Be it NPR or NRC, these are against poor people, minorities and Muslims. The question is whether we want the NRC or employment? If the need arises, I will be the first person not to fill up any form. Will you support me or not?" he asked.
"I would like to tell the policemen, who are wielding lathis on people, that the certificates of their mothers and fathers will also be sought," Mr Yadav added, referring to the wave of brutal crackdowns on protestors that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath justified yesterday; he said it had "shocked" every protester into silence.
On December 24 the central government approved a proposal to update the NPR - a database about people living in the country that is linked to the Census. The exercise is expected to be carried out nearly nationwide; Assam has been excluded because a National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise has already been conducted and 19 lakh people were left out.
The NPR, staunchly defended by Home Minister Amit Shah in a televised interview with news agency ANI in which he ruled out any connection with the NRC, has been slammed by the opposition and members of civil society, who see it as a precursor to the NRC - a poll promise of the ruling BJP - which claims to identify illegal migrants.
Amit Shah also echoed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's position on the NRC, two days after the PM appeared to contradict him on the subject.
Nevertheless activists, opposition parties and students protesting across the country fear the NPR and the NRC, along with the new citizenship law, will be used as tools to target Muslims. BJP allies like Punjab's Shiromani Akali Dal have also voiced their opposition, and Chief Ministers of several states, including Bengal, Andhra, Kerala and Delhi, have challenged its implementation.
Violent protests against the NRC and the amended citizenship law have broken out across the country. In UP alone at least 21 people have been killed in clashes with the cops, who have been caught on camera opening fire at protestors. Police across UP have been accused of brutality and cops in Meerut have been caught making communal statements on video.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, 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. The opposition, activists and even some allies of the centre say it discriminates against Muslims and is against principles of secularism and equality enshrined in the Constitution.
In September Akhilesh Yadav called the NRC a medium to instill fear and declared Yogi Adityanath would have to leave the state if it were implemented.
With input from ANI