More than 1,000 people in Meghalaya who had enrolled for Aadhaar have sought to withdraw from the biometric scheme, alleging that they were coerced/misled into it on warnings that they would lose their rights as a citizen if they did not enroll. “As many as 1, 202 people had signed documents to withdraw from the biometric scheme. They are from three centres – Shillong, Mawkyrwat in South West Khasi Hills and Nongstoin in West Khasi Hills districts,” said PBM Basaiawmoit of the Meghalaya Peoples Committee on Aadhaar (MPCA).

The MPCA, an umbrella organisation of student and civil society groups, had launched a campaign to “opt out” of Aadhaar” to express their opposition and apprehension against the 12-digit unique identification number. The powerful Khasi Student’s Union, which has been agitating against Aadhaar since 2014, said that it will only facilitate illegal immigrants to strengthen their claim to being genuine residents of Meghalaya.

The MPCA has decided that the date for submitting letters for withdrawal/opting out of Aadhaar has been extended to November 10, he said, adding that these will be submitted to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the government agency responsible for issuing Aadhaar numbers. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who is also yet to enroll for Aadhaar, expressed concern over the way the biometric scheme was being pushed, leading to confusion among citizens. “I have not registered for Aadhaar and I share the concern that right to privacy is important, or else the whole idea of democracy gets diluted,” he had said.

The Supreme Court had earlier passed several orders asking the government and its agencies not to make Aadhaar mandatory for getting benefits of the welfare schemes. However, the Reserve Bank of India had announced that linking Aadhaar number with bank account is mandatory. Meghalaya’s opposition Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP) said that they would serve legal notice to the RBI for stating that linking Aadhaar with bank accounts is mandatory. “When the Supreme Court has clearly stated that Aadhaar is not mandatory, why is the RBI persistently issuing notice to link Aadhaar with bank accounts,” asked HSPDP chief Ardent Miller Basaiawmoit.

The HSPDP also urged people not to rush for Aadhaar enrollment especially when petitions challenging its validity are being heard by the apex court. As on October 15, out of a targeted population of 32,30,132, 4,63,058 have been assigned Aadhaar numbers in Meghalaya. However, Meghalaya BJP leader JA Lyngdoh said Aadhaar can refine the delivery of social sector schemes such as the rural employment guarantee scheme besides addressing some of the major challenges, including payment of wages and ghost beneficiaries.