In Media

Winter Session: Reworked Citizenship Bill may set off Northeast stir

The Asian Age
Published on 16 November 2019

Winter Session is going to start from November 18.

Guwahati: The Centre’s move to push a revised Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the Winter Session of Parliament is set to have serious repercussions across the northeastern states, with the All Assam Students Union and other regional forces threatening to launch an agitation from November 18, the day the Winter Session is going to start.

The reaction has started soon after the Central government submitted the list of business to the Lok Sabha Business Advisory Committee, which includes introduction of a refurbished  Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019. Amid  strong opposition to the bill in the northeastern states, some rights groups have started a fresh campaign as they fear that if the bill is passed, it would throw out some 10 lakh people from Manipur and three other northeastern states, where Inner Line Permits are applicable.

Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland are governed by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1873, under which Indian nationals from other parts of the country have to possess an Inner Line Permit to visit temporarily. In 2018, the Manipur Assembly passed the Manipur People’s Protection Bill that seeks to expel people who or whose forefathers were living in the state before 1951.

Noting that in the wake of the vociferous protest over the CAB in the Northeast, the Union home ministry and the BJP had decided to tweak the bill so that it doesn’t override the existing BEFR, director of rights group Suhas Chakma claimed: “If this is done, more than 10 lakh people can be identified as illegal residents and dumped on Assam. Instead of expelling the alleged foreigners, Assam will end up receiving more than a million people before 2024.”

The BEFR, Mr Chakma argued, was enacted to insulate the tribal areas, and all non-tribal people who could not establish their descent from 1873 may be identified as illegal residents. The 2011 census found that Mizoram had 61,091, Nagaland 2,67,529 and Arunachal Pradesh 4,31,906 non-tribal people, while Manipur had lakhs of people who might not have documents to prove their residence prior to 1951.

“All these people may be dumped on Assam,” he said, asserting that religious minorities who fled alleged persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan were being “fooled” with the CAB promise. “There was no guarantee that if it was enacted, the citizenship applications of those excluded from the National Register of Citizens would be processed by Assam or the Centre, the rights leader claimed, warning that the CAB in its new format may balkanise the region.

The powerful students’ bodies of the Northeast under the banner of the North East Students Organisation has also threatened to oppose the bill that is aimed at making minority communities such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

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