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Tuesday 21 January 2020

Protests across NE against Citizenship Bill

Itanagar/Kohima/Aizawl: States across the Northeast on Monday witnessed protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, amidst concerns that the Centre’s proposed amendment will lead to massive demographic changes amongst the ‘indigenous’ populations of the region.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 allows Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to be eligible for Indian citizenship after a stay of six years.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. A key amendment in the bill seeks to grant citizenship to persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of their residence in India. 

The apex bodies of students’ unions in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland organised sit-ins on Monday in their respective state capitals, demanding immediate scrapping of the proposed legislation.

However, Union Minister of State for home affairs, Kiren Rijiju stated that the government would not do anything which undermines the sentiments and identities of indigenous communities of the Northeast.


Party chief Amit Shah held a meeting of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) — a coalition of 13 regional parties in the Northeast — in Guwahati to discuss the roadmap for the 2019 elections in which the BJP is eyeing all 25 seats in the region but Shah made no mention of the issue in his speech.

The meeting came at a time when there is tremendous resentment in Assam and Meghalaya over a proposed law that aims at giving citizenship to illegal migrants belonging to religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan — a promise made by Narendra Modi in the run-up to the 2014 general elections.

Protesters carrying black flags lined the streets of Guwahati, shouting slogans against the BJP for pushing the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016.

NEDA was formed in 2016 soon after the BJP formed the government in Assam for the first time, dislodging the Congress that was in power for 15 years. Partners in the alliance now rule all states in the Northeast, barring Mizoram where elections are due later this year.

Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which is part of the ruling coalition in Assam has strongly opposed any change to the citizenship law, even threatening to walk out of the alliance. The party today reiterated its opposition at the meeting.

Illegal migration, especially from Bangladesh, is a highly contentious issue in Assam. The issue had sparked violent protests in the late 1970s and early 1980s after which the Assam Accord was signed in 1985 that says all foreigners who entered the state after 1971 would be deported.

The NRC was recently updated in Assam to document the “bonafide Indian citizens” living in the State.

Urging the State government to work for the interest of the State, the AAPSU president also requested the Election Commission to delete all names of Chakma and Hajong refugees from the electoral rolls.

In Kohima, members of the Naga Students’ Federation raised slogans against the central government for introducing the bill in the Lok Sabha.

The Northeast region should not be made a “dumping ground of illegal immigrants”, Imtiyapang Imsong, the vice president of the apex students’ body in Nagaland, told reporters.

Echoing similar sentiments, the Mizo Zirlai Pawl in Kohima today urged the legislators of Mizoram to adopt a resolution to reject the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016.

If the bill was passed by Parliament, it would mean that the lawmakers do not consider Mizoram an integral part of the country, MZP president L Ramdinliana Rent said while addressing the rally.

The bill is now with a joint parliamentary committee. A 16-member JPC, headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal, had recently conducted public hearings in Guwahati, Silchar in Assam and Shillong in Meghalaya to gather the opinion of the masses on the proposed bill.


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