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

Ganga world's second most polluted river, Modi's Varanasi tops microplastics pollution

By Rajiv Shah  Will the new report by well-known elite NGO Toxics Link create a ripple in the powerful corridors of Delhi? Titled “Quantitative analysis of microplastics along River Ganga”, forwarded to Counterview, doesn’t just say that Ganga is the second most polluted river in the world, next only to Yangtze (China). It goes ahead to do a comparison of microplastics pollution in three cities shows Varanasi – the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – is more polluted compared to Kanpur and Haridwar.

How real is Mamata challenge to Modi? Preparing for 2024 'khela hobey' moment

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  Third time elected West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee is on a whirlwind tour of Delhi, meeting everyone who matters within and beyond the government, the Prime Minister, the President, some Cabinet ministers, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, several other opposition leaders, et al.

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

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.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

UP arrest of 'terrorists': Diverting attention from Covid goof-up, Ram temple land scam?

By Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey* That corruption is rampant in police department is a common experience. However, there is another form of corruption which devastates lives of individuals and their families. It has now emerged as a common phenomenon that police more often than not register false cases because of which individuals have to spend number of years in jail.

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Khorigaon demolition: People being 'brutally' evicted, cops 'restricting' food, water

By Ishita Chatterjee, Neelesh Kumar, Manju Menon, Vimal Bhai* On July 23, the Faridabad Municipal Corporation told the Supreme Court that they have cleared 74 acres out of 150 acres. Despite the affidavit of the Municipal Corporation, the court, on the complaint of various litigants, that the arrangements for living, food etc. have not been made for the people.