The North-East Rolls Up Its Sleeves To Protest Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

Student unions, civil society groups, and political parties from the north-eastern states are rallying against the revised Bill set to be introduced in the Parliament’s winter session.
Image Courtesy: Telegraph India

As the Union government readies the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) for a reintroduction in the winter session of the Parliament, student unions, civil society organisations and political parties in the North-East gear up to protest such a move.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend theCitizenship Act, 1995 so as to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsi’s and Christians from neighbouringMuslim-majority nations.The new CAB, updated since its lapse in May 2019,includes provisions to amend the definition of illegal migrants, reduce the number of years required to obtain Indian citizenship through naturalization to six, and empower central Government to cancel the registration of Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) in case of any violations.

ETV Bharat reported that the bill is likely to be tabled in the first half of the winter session, between November 18 and December 13.Taking note of the proposed move of the central government, opposition parties in the North-East have already started opposing such a move.

Students Unions Protest

On November 15, 2019, members and supporters of AsomJatiyabadi Yuba ChhatraParishad (AJYCP)took out rallies, and held sit-in demonstrations at several places, including Guwahati, Mangaldoi, Sonari and Jorthat.They raised slogans against the BJP-led central and Assam governments for allegedly adopting an “anti-Assam policy”with their push for amending the Citizenship Act’.

The All Assam Student Union (AASU) and NESO (North East Students Organization) also announced that its members will be holding demonstrations around the Raj Bhawan to oppose the proposed billon November 18. Times of Indiareportedgeneral secretary LurinjyotiGogoi saying, “the citizenship amendment will never be accepted. We will not let BJP destroy the state.”

The Telegraph further reported that at least another 11 political parties, under the banner of the Left Democratic Manch (LDM), Assam, on Friday announced an agitation against the bill on November 18. The protest will coincide with another demonstrations called by the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), in all northeastern state capitals the same day.

Samujjal Bhattacharyya, chief advisor for AASU and NESO, accused Assam Chief Minister SarbanandaSonowal of “not having the courage to speak in front of his national leaders.”

The proposed Bill has also received student opposition in other North-Eastern states.

Civil society and political parties

On November 15, the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), a joint body of major civil society organisations, demanded a written assurance from the Central Government on protection of the State’s interests and territory. Since the past month, they have been conducting“alert demonstrations” and “alert marches” to highlight the need to safeguard the State’s interests and territory.At one such alert meeting, MLA KMeghachandraadvised the State Government to make its stand clear to dispel the apprehension of people.As the agreement reached is being kept secret, people could not trust that the State’s integrity will remain intact, he noted.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had earliersaid that if enacted, the Bill could be detrimental to the Northeastern region and the party would strongly oppose it.In Meghalaya, the Congresshas heldprotest ralliesagainst the CABinWilliamnagarof East Garo Hills,Resubelparaof North Garo Hills, Garobadha village in South West Garo Hills, with former Chief Minister, Dr.MukulSangma leading the charge.

In response to a 15-member Congress delegation that sought his support, CPI general secretary D Raja assured that his party will oppose the controversial Bill in the winter session. Raja further said that he will raise the Naga accord too in the Parliament.

Delhi-based rights group Rights & Risks Analysis Group had reported that pushing forthe revised CAB in the winter session of Parliament will have repercussions across the north-eastern states and balkanise the region. The bill, if passed, would throw out some 10 lakh people from Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.



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