by Nava Thakuria
As if the people of the northeast (NE) India became more conscious about India’s constitution, rule of law and its secular image abroad. So groups of people, including politicians, civil society group representatives, media personnel came to hit the streets raising strong voices against the Union government’s proposed citizenship amendment initiatives.
The move by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to grant citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan ignited a firestorm in the region. The tide against the government was prompted by the arising apprehensions among nor got the eastern indigenous people that they would lose their due rights after it realized.
The region, which has the history of separatist movements by various militant groups, even observed a Bandh (
Reasons may be the BJP could not garner necessary
Oppositions to the amendment initiative surfaced as the Indian citizenship cannot (must not) be conferred on the basis of religion because it is a secular country.
spirit of the constitution of
The other view was that Assam had already taken the extra burden of illegal migrants (read Bangladeshi nationals from 1951 to 1971) in contrast to national cut-off year (’51) because of an agreement
Guwahati on 23 January witnessed an impressive rally which was organized by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) along with 30 indigenous groups to oppose the bill. The rally attracted over 3,000
But perhaps not everyone was convinced with the arguments of agitators as a massive public meeting in the outskirt of Guwahati showed a different picture. Addressing the gathering of over
audiences at Changsari locality under Kamrup district on 9 February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that the concerned bill would be honoured.
The spectacular congregation applauded PM Modi when he termed the initiative as a moral responsibility for the centre to support the asylum seekers from the Muslim dominated Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh who had fled their countries of origin because of religious persecutions there.
Anti-CAB protests gained momentum since the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the matter came to Guwahati last year for public hearings. A number of indigenous organizations, local politicians,
intellectuals, media personalities etc assembled on the venue and raised their voices against the bill.
However, the subsequent hearing at Silchar in Barak valley witnessed a different picture as most of the organizations supported the initiative. Even people of the valley were reluctant to join in the anti-bill protests, when Lok Sabha passed the bill on 8 January.
BJP’s Assam ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) pulled out of the government in Dispur as its leaders, most of whom were once AASU members, claimed that the proposed amendment would challenge the Assam
accord, signed by the agitators with the Centre in presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, after
Soon anti-CAB protests were joined by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma. Later Mizoram chief minister Zoram Thanga, Manipur government chief N Biren Singh, Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu also came out opposing the bill. Sangma later took the lead to organize various local political parties of the region to stand against it.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had however continued supporting the move arguing that it would not affect the region.
Remaining silent over the matter for months, Sonowal started making voluminous public comments that the Centre’s new initiatives would only benefit the locals in the long run.
Strong arguments were
However, an eminent human rights activist argued that the proposed amendment would have neither change the status quo on
Interacting with Guwahati based scribes, the New Delhi based rights activist asserted that the bill had not introduced any new element whatsoever as it proposed only to reduce the waiting period of
submitting applications for citizenship via naturalization from 11 years to 6 years.
“So it would make no difference as those who had come to India by 2007 can now apply for citizenship. If the bill is duly processed, the asylum seekers could apply with the documents of 2012. Otherwise,
their turn will come in 2023 in due course,” stated Suhas adding that anti-CAB rows would help nobody to pretend to be patriots.
(The writer is a northeast India based journalist .)
by Nava Thakuria