Students, farmers and women in North-Eastern States have threatened New Delhi and the Modi Government with a renewed agitation if it went ahead with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill allowing every other migrant community from neighbouring countries except Muslims to become Indian citizens.
People are particularly aggrieved with the cut-off year of 2014 proposed in the Bill, which the Centre is expected to table in Parliament during the current winter session. Spokesmen of NESO (North East Students Organisation), an umbrella organisation, hold that the proposed amendment would lead to more demographic changes in the region.
Effigies of the Prime Minister and the Assam chief minister were burnt by protesters on Monday and a protest march was led to the Raj Bhavan, where a memorandum was handed over. Similar reports have come in from Aizawl and Itanagar as well.
Even as elderly women of Ima Market in Imphal, Manipur, ended their agitation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the youth took over to enforce an 18-hour people’s curfew which began at midnight on Monday.
Ningthouja Lancha, President of the North East Forum for Indigenous People (NEFIP) told this correspondent, “This is unprecedented. The Centre is prioritising citizenship on the basis of religion while overlooking the interests of the natural citizens.
He added, “It is illegal and will have an adverse effect. It is antithetical that on the basis of religious identity people from other countries will be given citizenship while the Government is persecuting citizens.”
Even if the Parliament approves the Bill, he warned, the Government should be prepared to face opposition and agitations against the Bill.
Coming down heavily on lawmakers from the North East, Lancha said, “Our MPs have failed to protect our rights and aspirations. Hence, we decided to take it upon ourselves. We submitted memorandums twice in the past three months, yet they fell on deaf ears.”
A conglomeration of various civil societies, North East Forum for Indigenous People (NEFIP), was formed after CAB was passed in January in the Lok Sabha. It claims to represent the aspirations of indigenous people living in the seven north eastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
NEFIP claimed in a recent statement that the eligibility criterion to grant citizenship to the illegal migrants” besides being “unreasonable and unlawful” is “genocidal” for the indigenous people of the region.
The organisation based in Shillong had submitted memorandums twice before, on August 9 and October 3.
In the August 9 memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NEFIP said that CAB would have “severe impact” on the ongoing NRC monitored by the Supreme Court as the critical dates of reference to recognise as immigrant for naturalisation are different.
“It negates Section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 introduced in pursuance to the Assam Accord of 1985 and shall jeopardise the whole exercise already carried out”, it had stated.