‘Grateful’, ‘divide and rule bill’: Sentiments from Northeast on Citizenship Amendment Bill
Those who opposed the bill included the Congress’s four MPs, and the lone MPs of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha.Updated: Dec 10, 2019 11:19 IST
Monday saw a fierce debate in the Lok Sabha on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The bill successfully passed the Lok Sabha test, but not before facing fair bit of resistance and politics.
Similar sentiments were on display in the Northeast as well. While the government’s decision to include Manipur under Inner Line Permit was hailed by the state’s politicians, others said CAB is a “divide and rule” bill.
“We are including Manipur in the Inner Line Permit system; this is a big issue which has now been resolved. I thank PM Modi on behalf of the people of Manipur for fulfilling this long standing demand,” Home Minister Amit Shah said after tabling the bill in the Lok Sabha. The ILP has been a contentious issue in the Northeast and most of the BJP-led NDA ruled states had their concerns regarding the ILP and the Citizenship Bill, which the Home Minister sought to address.
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had been one of the vocal opponents of the bill, and had registered his protests along with his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart Pema Khandu with the BJP top brass in Delhi in January.
On Monday, he told HT that he was never opposed to the bill if it had nothing to do with Manipur. “We always supported the bill, provided it did not touch Manipur. The population in these states are negligible when compared to the rest of India, and it could have had devastating effects on the region. We were never opposed to the bill as a policy,” said Singh.
“I expressed my gratitude to PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah and all the leaders who ensued that Manipur comes under the ILP; only BJP can save this region,” he said.
The ILP is a government-issued travel document to allow Indian citizens enter states that are under the system. Presently, the ILP was in force in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. It now includes Manipur too.
C Lalrosanga of the Mizo National Front (MNF) said that his party supported the bill and the people of his state were in gratitude as Mizoram was exempted since it came under the ILP regime. “At the verge of the passage of the bill, which grants citizenship to people three countries who are victims of religious persecution, I request the government to ensure that there is no religious persecution within the country,” he said.
Lorho S Pfoze of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) said that since his state Manipur was exempt from the bill, his party supports it. “We are confident that you will look at the interest of the indigenous people of the state; we’re small in numbers and our smallness needs to be protected,” said Pfoze.
Those who opposed the bill included the Congress’s four MPs, and the lone MPs of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM). SKM is part of BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) - a coalition of non-Congress parties in the Northeast. Assam independent MP Naba Kumar Sarania did not specify his stand.
“The government spent so much money spent on the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and now after the entire exercise has been rejected, the CAB is brought to bring relief to the Hindus excluded from the NRC. But what about the Muslims? Did our forefathers not lay their lives for the freedom of this nation?” AIUDF MP Badruddin Ajmal asked, calling CAB a “divide and rule” bill.
SKM leader Indra Kumar Habba said that in 1975 when Sikkim became part of India, as per the the Sikkim Subjects Regulation, every person who on April 26, 1975 was a Sikkimese citizen was automatically deemed to be Indian. “Since the bill does not exempt Sikkim, we oppose it,” he said.
Agatha Sangma of the National People’s Party (NPP) said that while her party supports the bill, she requested that the entire Northeastern Region be exempted from CAB. She also asked for a clarification: Whether applicants residing in Meghalaya will be deemed Meghala citizens.
Independent MP from Assam, Naba Sarania, who was a former commander of the insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam, too, also made a similar demand.
Inside the Lok Sabha, all other members of NEDA, like Mizo National Front, National People’s Party, and Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party supported CAB, along with the 14 BJP lawmakers from the Northeast. The Naga People’s Front, a former NEDA ally, also lent support to the bill.