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Home / India News / Fault lines across eight states over Citizenship Amendment Bill

Fault lines across eight states over Citizenship Amendment Bill

Underlying concerns: Most North-east states already grapple with the refugee issue and, with the passage of CAB, locals are wary of an ethnic imbalance not limited to religion.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2019 02:57 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Assam police women patrol during a curfew in Guwahati.
Assam police women patrol during a curfew in Guwahati. (AP)

Assam: Unease over indigenous rights fuels stir

In Assam, most districts in the Brahmaputra valley have been rocked by violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, or CAB, cleared by Parliament on Wednesday. Three autonomous districts -- Dima Hasao, East Karbi Anglong, and West Karbi Anglong -- and four districts under the Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts (BTAD) -- Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang, and Udalguri -- will not come under the purview of CAB because they fall in areas covered under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The protest in the state is primarily by local indigenous organisations, led by the All Assam Students Union (AASU), against allowing Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh automatic citizenship under CAB.

These organisations say that the proposed law will change the demography of the state, where the indigenous Assamese-speaking population has come down to 48% in 2011 from 58% in 1991.

However, the population of Bengali speakers has increased from 22% to 32% in the same period. Those opposed to CAB also say that the legislation will dilute provisions of the Assam Accord, which set March 25, 1971, as the deadline for entry of illegal immigrants to the state. CAB, where the date for entry of religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan had been set at December 31, 2014, will increase the deadline by another 43 years.

The Barak valley, dominated by Bengali Hindu migrants, however, has welcomed the approval to the bill.

Tripura: Fears of migrant influx

The indigenous political parties on Thursday withdrew their indefinite agitation against CAB after a meeting with chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, who assured them that he would arrange a meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah.

These political parties, under the banner of Joint Movement against Citizenship Amendment Bill (JMCAB), started the indefinite strike from December 9. There are protests in the state over CAB even though only 30% of the state’s geographical areas would come under the purview of the new law. CAB exempts scheduled (tribal-dominated) areas but indigenous people believe that the remaining 30% of the area will become concentrated with immigrants. Tripura’s tribal population has come down to 31% in 2011, as compared to 59% in 1971. It saw an influx of non-indigenous people from the former East Pakistan after 1947; the indigenous communities were reduced to a minority by 1971.

Meghalaya: Indigenous groups seek strict regulations

Meghalaya does not come under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regimen -- as no government permission is required to enter the state -- but in November 2019, the Meghalaya Cabinet approved amendments to the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act 2016, which will lead to regulations that would require non-resident visitors to register themselves in the state.

The Act requires a visitor, who desires to stay for more than 24 hours in the state, to fill an online application and get permission for entry. This is ILP by another name. Some tribal communities believe that CAB would enable rights to outsiders in the state. On Tuesday, the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, which sent Agatha Sangma to Parliament, saw her effigies being burnt in several places.

While most of Meghalaya is covered under Sixth Schedule of Constitution and is outside the CAB’s ambit, there is a large area (10 square km) within Shillong city called the European Ward, which will fall under CAB purview.

Sikkim: Wary of changes to state’s demography

Opposition parties in Sikkim had opposed CAB on the grounds that the demographic character of the Himalayan state, which is protected under article 371(F) of the Constitution, would be affected and spell danger for its indigenous people.

Regional parties, such as former India soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia’s Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) and the Sikkim Republican Party (SRP), have also accused the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM)-led government of not raising its voice against CAB. They have demanded ILP for non-residents from the rest of India -- it is currently applicable only for foreigners in Sikkim. Indra Hang Subba, the lone Lok Sabha MP from Sikkim and an SKM leader, said: “Insecurity among local indigenous people is growing. This may lead to breach of peace in Sikkim.”

He requested home minister Amit Shah to introduce ILP for Sikkim on the same lines as Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram. There is confusion among people whether the state would be exempted from CAB as it is protected under Article 371 (F) because the Centre has not given any clarification on this.

Mizoram: Tribals from other states main worry

Mizoram is also out of the CAB purview as it is an ILP state. People in Mizoram have been protesting against tribals from other states come to the region. It has also been protesting against relocation of the Bru refugees living in camps in Tripura for close to two decades. Mizoram did not allow Bru refugees to vote in the 2018 assembly elections, and feels that CAB may enable their relocation.

Bru refugees migrated to Mizoram over a 100 years ago, apparently from Myanmar, Laos and Combodia, where many of them still live.

Arunachal Pradesh: Locals resent more rights for refugees

Arunachal Pradesh does not come under the CAB because it is already under the ILP regime. However, there is concern over 100,000 Chakma and Hajong refugees, who came from Bangladesh in the 1970s after violence in Chittagong Hill Tracks, benefiting from CAB. The Chakmas are mostly Hindus and Hajongs mostly Buddhists.

In 2017, the government decided to give them “limited” citizenship, not allowing them land rights.

However, the local tribal communities have, in the past, protested against their presence in the state and believe that CAB could enable the refugees to get full citizenship.

Nagaland: Assam migrants a cause of concern

Nagaland does not come under CAB as the entire state is notified under Inner Line Permit (ILP). Local social and political groups have help protests in the state, however, claiming that CAB could lead to migration of people from Assam, where NRC was implemented earlier this year.

Only a couple of days ago, the Nagaland government had extended the ILP to Dimapur, the commercial hub of the state. This means it is now mandatory across the state for “non-indigenous persons” who entered after November 21, 1979, to obtain an ILP within 90 days.

Manipur: Concerns despite ILP

In 2018, the Manipur People Bill, 2018, was passed by the state Assembly and is now awaiting Presidential nod. The bill puts regulations on “outsiders” or “non-Manipuri people” in the state. On Tuesday, the home ministry notified the ILP regime for the state, after which protests subsided. Under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, the British framed regulations restricting the entry and the stay of “outsiders” in designated areas. Manipur was a princely state. When it joined the Indian Union (in 1949; they both became full-fledged states in 1972), it was out of the scheme of the Sixth Schedule, which prescribes regulations for tribal dominated areas. It has two distinct areas. The valley, which includes Imphal, constitutes roughly 10% of the area but holds around 60% of the population, belongs mostly to the Meitei community. The remaining 90% is hilly areas, and is home to a range of tribes, including Nagas and Kukis.The land and cultural rights of the tribals are protected under Article 371C of the Constitution that protects rights of locals.