Mangaluru, January 30, 2018: Citizens of Coastal Karnataka woke up this morning to shocking news when the leading local Kannada daily front paged a ‘serious Anti National case’ of a Malaysian citizen who had managed to get an Aadhaar card allotted to him. The sensational news article predicted that there was every possibility of the Malaysian being arrested anytime soon.
Now on closer scrutiny the news item is found to be an exaggerated non issue which has caused needless anxiety among the people with its wild horror mongering. Foreigners who stay for extended durations in India are perfectly eligible to avail Aadhaar card, it is learnt, and there was nothing wrong if the authorities had indeed issued the card to the Malaysian national.
The newspaper identified the culprit as a Hoh Jian Meng, student of medicine at one of the local medical colleges. Apart from the telltale ‘anti national’ rant, the article also had an underlying political slant with the article laying the blame for issuing Aadhaar card to a ‘foreigner at his doorstep’ squarely on the ‘nexus between state government officials and local political leaders’.
Recalling that “Recently BJP leaders had discovered that over 3000 students were being illegally enrolled as voters”, the article further stated that the other residents of the apartment complex where the Malaysian student stayed had alleged that a mysterious woman had tried to gain entry to the flats on the pretext of giving Aadhaar card. When the watchman stopped her from entering the building, he had received a phone call allegedly from a local MLA requesting to let the woman into the building in view of the need to make identity cards for elections. After this the watchman obliged and let her in.
Despite its sensational claims, now it is pretty clear that the newspaper has made a serious blunder. In its eagerness to catch an ‘anti national’ activity red handed, it seems to have thrown caution to the winds and went ahead with the story without undertaking any of the back checking customary for such articles. The Aadhaar card itself clearly mentions that Aadhaar is ‘proof of identity and not of citizenship’.
The Aadhaar Act 2016, under Chapter I, Section 2 (v), defines ‘resident’ as an individual who has resided in India for a period of 182 days or more in the twelve months immediately preceding the date of application for enrolment.
Chapter III, Section 9 states that ‘The Aadhaar number or the authentication thereof shall not, by itself, confer any right of, or be proof of, citizenship or domicile in respect of an Aadhaar number holder.’
Google also reveals numerous affirmative answers to this query with an article in Business Today stating “As Aadhaar enrolment is based on residency rather than citizenship, foreign nationals meeting the test of resident as defined above, will be eligible to obtain Aadhaar.” It further gives list of documents acceptable as proof for foreign citizens to obtain Aaadhaar.
While the article acknowledged that attempts to reach the Malaysian boy by phone were unsuccessful, it also did not bother to seek any clarification from the authorities about whether there was any breach of security. The article concluded with a demand for the police to investigate how a foreign citizen could get an Aadhaar card, who is the mysterious woman who showed up at the flat and which political party she belonged to.
The article not only published the Malaysian boy’s photo, but also his address and phone number, thereby exposing him to danger of attack by fringe elements who are known to get enraged over so called ‘anti national’ issues.
One can only hope that the newspaper will realize its fault and issue a formal clarification in its next edition.