RANJU DODUM | 1 DECEMBER, 2019
Union HM Unable to Break N-E Resistance to Citizenship Bill, Talks Inconclusive
PASIGHAT: The Union Home Ministry talks on the Citizenship Amendment Bill with political parties and civil society organisations from the Northeast are not going smoothly. Several representatives have voiced their concerns, and remain unconvinced by the central government’s arguments.
The talks began Friday night with Union home minister Amit Shah meeting representatives from Tripura at around 9 PM for two hours. Then at 11.20, he and other officials from the ministry met representatives from Mizoram. Both meetings did not yield any conclusive results.
Sunil Debbarma, the general secretary of the Tripura Students Federation, said that Shah did give assurances that the Amendment will seek to protect indigenous populations of the region, but they are not completely convinced.
“He tried to convince us but could not, we placed our concerns,” he said, adding that the indigenous tribes of Tripura have become a minority.
“Ours is the only state where the chief minister is not an indigenous person,” he said.
Debbarma also said that the end result of the meeting “was not good”.
North East Students Organization (NESO) finance secretary and advisor to the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP- the Mizo students body), Ricky Lalbaikmawia, said that “nothing was resolved” in the meeting and that the MZP continues to stand against the Bill.
He said that the Centre will go ahead with placing the Bill and that the states in the Northeast will not be exempted.
However, he added that the provisions of the inner line permit, which require Indian citizens to acquire a permit to enter Mizoram, will remain and “will protect Mizoram from illegal immigrants”. He also said that an NRC process will be initiated in the state.
On Saturday afternoon, Shah met representatives from Arunachal Pradesh to discuss the issue.
The BJP state government in Arunachal Pradesh had earlier formed a consultative committee to seek opinions on the Bill from community-based organisations, civil societies, and students’ unions.
The committee’s stance was that it is ‘unequivocally opposed’ to the Bill and sought that existing protective provisions remain.
Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland (barring Dimapur district), and parts of Manipur, Meghalaya, and Sikkim, come under certain Constitutional provisions such as Article 371, Sixth Schedule, Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, and Chin Hills Regulations which provide special land ownership and entry laws to protect the interests of the smaller number of indigenous tribal populations.
During today’s meeting, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Pema Khandu, raised the concerns of indigenous tribal communities and that the state unequivocally opposes the Bill.
He also sought that a special provision is inserted to protect the interests of indigenous tribal communities of the state.
Former chief minister and Congress MLA, Nabam Tuki, said that assurances have been given to protect the interests of the people of the state but that he is not confident.
“The Congress is opposed to the CAB,” he said.
Tuki also told reporters after the meeting that the details of the CAB have not been divulged by the BJP government.
Shah is reported to have assured the Arunachal contingent that applicable provisions of Bengal East Frontier Regulation and the Chin Hills Regulations will be “suitably incorporated” in the Bill.
The NESO, which has been protesting and mobilising student bodies across the region, said that the Bill is against the interest of the indigenous people of the North East Region, and that the Government of India “should understand that the indigenous people of North East are a minority in all fronts”.
It urged the Centre to not place the Bill in the parliament.