Skip to main content

North-East: Generating patriotism by raising anti-Citizenship Amendment Bill banner

By Nava Thakuria*
It would seem that the people of northeast (NE) India have become more conscious about India’s constitution, rule of law and its secular image abroad. Indeed, groups of people, including politicians, civil society group representatives, media personnel etc. recently 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 rising apprehensions among northeastern indigenous people that they would lose their due rights after this gets realized.
The region, which has a history of separatist movements by various militant groups, even observed a bandh (total shut down) on January 8, 2019 protesting against New Delhi based central government’s adamant attitude to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian Parliament.
The much talked CAB was scheduled to table in Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament) on February 13 to get it finally enacted as a law after necessary endorsements from the President of India. But at the last moment, the BJP-led NDA government avoided placing it and seemingly left the bill to die a natural death.
Reasons may be the BJP could not garner necessary support from opposition parties or it faced an uproarious situation in various parts of the region, but it brought smiles to thousands of agitators, and many of them celebrated the occasion as an achievement.
Oppositions to the amendment initiative surfaced as the Indian citizenship cannot (and must not) be conferred on the basis of religion because it is a secular country. Otherwise it would go against the spirit of the constitution of world’s largest democracy.
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 (1951) because of an agreement signed in 1985 between the leaders of the historic Assam Movement and the Union government in New Delhi. Hence, agitators from the state’s Brahmaputra valley vehemently opposed the proposal.
Guwahati on January 23 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 strong gathering from different parts of the region taking pledge not to allow New Delhi to pass CAB. By the evening, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS) along with 70 other local bodies organized a torchlight procession in the city streets.
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 hundred thousand audiences at Changsari locality under Kamrup district on February 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated that the concerned bill would be honoured.
The spectacular congregation applaused 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 January 8.
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 culmination of the six-year long Assam agitation.
New found national spirit was so high that when separatist National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) chief Ranjan Daimary was awarded life imprisonment for Assam’s serial blasts on October 30, 2008. No human rights activist or Assamese intellectuals came forward demanding his release. Only Ranjan’s relatives argued that he should be pardoned for the sack of peace talks with the government.
Similarly, they simply ignored the news breaking from northern Myanmar where many hideout of armed United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) were busted by their security forces. Otherwise, there would have been at least media statements concerning those issues, but this time they were seemingly not interested to take side with the separatists.
Soon anti-CAB chorus was 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, 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 put by Assam’s outspoken minister Himanta B Sarma as he asserted that the initiative would safeguard the Assamese population. Expressing serious concern over the aggressive mentality of Bangladeshi Muslim settlers, Sarma claimed that the initiative would prevent Assam from becoming another Kashmir.
However, an eminent human rights activist argued that the proposed amendment would neither change the status quo on ground nor would it allay long-standing concerns over the issue of refugees. Suhas Chakma, who hails from Tripura, also added that vociferous support or strident opposition to the bill was politically motivated.
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 row would help nobody to pretend to be patriots.
---
*Northeast India based journalist

Comments

TRENDING

India reaches 8th of 10 stage genocide: US Muslim advocacy group raises 'alert'

By Hena Zuberi* India has reached the 8th stage of genocide with the persecution of the Muslim community. Stating this, Professor Greg Stanton, who heads Genocide Watch, declared a Genocide Emergency Alert for India today at Justice For All online briefing.

Mayawati's 'success' depends on how BSP taps new crop of young Amdekarite leaders

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Whatever be the election results in Uttar Pradesh on March 10, it is extremely important to understand: that the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its leader Mayawati have the potential to rise like a Phoenix any time.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Anti-poor? 'Cumbersome' to link aadhaar, voter ID for people sans internet access

By Prashant Kumar Chaudhary, Ajit Kumar Jaiswal*  At present, technology plays an increasingly crucial part in modelling human existence by offering a variety of solutions to many of the challenges individuals confront in the real world. As a result, every branch of research works to provides means to solve these difficulties precisely and efficiently. The Central government works along the same lines as well.

India's actual Covid death rate about 2500 per million, third highest in world: Study

By Rajiv Shah  There is now well-researched proof, if it can be called that, indicating that the Government of India may have fudged data to show lower Covid death rate. A new paper, published in “Science”, has said that while officially the Government of India’s Covid-related death estimates as of January 1, 2022 – 345 per million population – are one-seventh of the US death rate, the actual analysis of crude death rate in India suggests, this may be a gross underestimation. 

Democratic leaders silently greeting Modi's 'increasingly autocratic' rule: HRW

Counterview Desk The Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s new “World Report 2022: Events of 2021”, claiming to “investigate abuses, expose facts widely, and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice”, has identified India as one of the countries where “autocracy is ascendant and democracy on the decline” because of emergence of leaders with autocratic tendencies.

Barbaric, inhuman attack on Odisha villagers to implement JSW project: NGO networks

Counterview Desk  A “solidarity statement" issued by three top civil society networks, Friends of the Earth India (FoE India), Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has asked the Odisha chief minister to ensure that the “inhumane barbaric attack on the villagers of Dhinkia, Odisha” in order to implement a corporate project.

Gender insensitive? Model Gujarat's cyclone relief package ignores 40,000 fisherwomen

CSJ volunteers talking to fisherwomen By Rajiv Shah  A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) note on the Gujarat government’s compensation package to the victims of the devastating Tauktae cyclone, which hit the coastal belt of Saurashtra's Amerli, Rajula, Una, and Gir-Somnath districts in May 2021, has said, the relief offered was so terribly inadequate that many of the fisherfolk were not able to fish for the rest of the year.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Haridwar call for genocide direct result of Modi 'tolerating' Islamophobic policies

By Our Representative  A high-level briefing organised in Washington DC, in which as many as 17 human rights and interfaith organizations -- including Amnesty International USA, Genocide Watch and Hindus for Human Rights, apart from several persons in their individual capacity -- participated, has come down heavily on what they called "Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Islamophobic policies and tolerance of open incitement by Hindu extremists for a genocide of Muslims."