RANJU DODUM | 4 OCTOBER, 2019
N-E Continues to Simmer Over the Citizenship Bill
Protests in north-eastern states
ITANAGAR: Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s comments that the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) will be re-introduced to be passed in the Rajya Sabha has not gone down well with sections of people in the Northeast.
The central governments plans to ease citizenship laws for non-Muslim religious minorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan has been the cause of anger and protests both from community organisations and elected officials, including some of its political partners in the region.
State governments of Mizoram and Meghalaya, consisting of parties allied with the BJP in the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), had passed resolutions against the CAB.
On Tuesday, Shah said the centre will pass the CAB in the Rajya Sabha first and then implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in West Bengal.
He had also earlier told NEDA members in September that the Bill will not have any bearings on the region, ‘if implemented’. Shah had said that Centre ‘will never disturb any of the special provisions enjoyed by most of the states in the region’.
Those special provisions include the sections of Article 371, Sixth Schedule areas, inner line permit that is required by Indians to visit Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, and parts of Sikkim.
In Arunachal Pradesh’s capital, Itanagar, the protest was headed by the United Arunachal Indigenous Peoples Forum (UAIPF), a constituent of the North East Forum for Indigenous People (NEPIF).
UAIPF president Laffe Paffe said that the forum will not allow a situation like Tripura where indigenous populations have become a minority in the state.
“Union home minister Amit Shah should know the negative impact which may change the demography of the state and the region,” he added.
In Assam, the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) said that the CAB goes against the spirit of the Assam Accord. Incidentally, it was reported that the state BJP president, Ranjeet Kumar Dass had said that the CAB had become a necessity in Assam after the exclusion of over 19 lakh people from the NRC.
The NRC, which was published on August 31, has been seen as a setback to the BJP’s plan in Assam and has been contended that many of those excluded from the list are Bengali Hindus.
In Manipur’s capital, Imphal, hundreds of women took to the streets outside the Ima Keithel (Mothers’ Market) holding placards protesting the Bill.
The protest in Imphal was led by an umbrella organization of over 8084 civil society organizations called the Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MANPAC).
Similar protests were also across the region, with many of the tribal-majority states fearing an influx of people from Bangladesh and becoming a minority in their own lands.
In Mizoram, the NGO Co-Ordination Committee has planned to hold protests on October 5 when Shah is scheduled to visit the state.
The committee, which had earlier boycotted Republic Day celebrations in the state in protest against the Bill, has reportedly urged people to wear black shawls and carry placards in protest during Shah’s visit.