Citizenship Bill will make North-East dumping ground for refugees, scrap it: Ibobi to Rajnath

Former Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh, who is leading a delegation of 25 MPs, MLAs and former MLAs from the state, said that his party would fight the Citizenship Bill tooth and nail.


Dhairya Maheshwari

The entire north-east, mainly Manipur, will be turned into a “dumping ground” for refugees from neighbouring countries if the Citizenship Amendment Bill is cleared in Parliament, former Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh is believed to have told Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The former chief minister is leading a delegation of 25 Congress leaders, comprising 14 MLAs, two MPs and eight former MLAs, to New Delhi. The Congress team is seeking an appointment with President Ram Nath Kovind in the coming days, during which they will present a memorandum listing their demands.

The Congress leaders also called on Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh later in the day. “He gave us a patient hearing. The issue we have on our minds are really crucial to our state and people of the country,” M Prithviraj, a former MLA and part of Congress’ delegation, told National Herald.

Explaining the purpose of his visit, the delegation head, Ibobi Singh said, “We are here to meet the President, the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister. We have three issues. The first one is about the framework agreement signed between the Government of India and the insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM (NSCN-IM). The second problem is regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.”

Ibobi said that it was in the interest of the north-east and Manipur that the BJP-backed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill be scrapped. “If the bill is amended, it will have a huge impact on the north-east, since it will become a dumping ground for refugees,” he said.

“We will fight it (Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016) tooth-and-nail,” said former Manipur CM Okram Ibobi Singh

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill proposes granting of citizenship to Hindus and other minorities from “Muslim-dominated countries” once they are in India for six years. In a way, it tweaks the definition of illegal immigrant, as defined in the Citizenship Act, 1955, excluding Hindus and other minorities from its ambit. In the north-east, the passing of the proposed bill is set to put Hindus from Bangladesh at an unfair advantage over Muslims.

The former CM explained that all the new arrivals in Manipur, once the bill was cleared, would have to be settled in the Valley, which constituted only eight percent of the state’s total area. “The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, restricts people from other parts of the country to settle in the hills,” he noted.

“We will fight it tooth-and-nail,” said the Congress leader.

Speaking on the Naga Accord, Ibobi said that the secrecy around the framework agreement must end.

“Till today, nobody knows what the contest of the framework agreement are. The contents must be made public before the agreement is approved by the Union Cabinet and tabled in Parliament,” demanded Ibobi.

A high-ranking officer in the Indian Army, currently serving in Nagaland, told National Herald that the Modi government didn’t want to make the framework agreement public since “there are aspects in the peace agreement which are seemingly favourable to one faction or state, while being unfavourable to the other.”

“So, the government has to strike a balance keeping in mind the political expediency and security issues,” said the Indian Army official.

Spelling out Congress’ final demand, Ibobi said, “The third problem concerns the Manipur University, whose students have been on an agitation for around a month now. They are not joining the classroom and stopped the functioning of Manipur University.”

Prithviraj said that the Vice-chancellor of the University, Adya Prasad Panday, was acting more like a “BJP agent” rather than the VC.

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Published: 27 Jun 2018, 8:22 PM