Protests erupt in northeastern states against citizenship bill
Protests erupted against the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill or CAB across the northeastern states on Monday, with the Centre slated to table the bill during the ongoing winter session of Parliament.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 and fast track the process under which non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan can get Indian citizenship. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in January of this year but was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha. It lapsed after the term of the last Lok Sabha ended in May.
The proposed legislation has faced opposition in the northeast, where protesters have argued that it goes against the provisions of the Assam Accord that seek to safeguard the interests of indigenous people.
On Monday, different organisations held marches and sit-in demonstrations against CAB across the seven states of the region. “This is the first stage of our protest. We will intensify our stir depending on the government’s stance. We are also seeking support of political parties outside the region and urging them to oppose CAB in parliament,” said Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of the All Assam Students Union (AASU).
The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella organisation of eight student bodies, submitted memorandums against CAB to governors across the northeast.
In Meghalaya, the Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisations (CoMSO) and North East Forum of Indigenous People (NEFIP) called for a ‘stay-off-the-road’ protest on Monday and Tuesday.
Despite assurances from Union home minister Amit Shah that CAB will not undermine the rights of the region’s indigenous people, there are apprehensions that once passed, the bill would lead to an influx of foreigners from Bangladesh.
“In Arunachal Pradesh, a joint protest was held in Itanagar by representatives of student bodies, youth organizations, civil society groups held a march from Indira Gandhi Park to the Governor’s residence,” said Tatung Taga, convener of All Arunachal Pradesh Student Union (AAPSU).
In Mizoram, the protests were led by the state’s biggest student organization, Mizo Zirlai Pawl, by holding a sit-in demonstration outside Vanapa Hall in Aizawl on Monday afternoon.
Assam minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Himanta Biswa Sarma has maintained that the CAB will not affect indigenous communities of northeast. “The CAB in its new form will ensure that the unique ethnic and cultural identities of indigenous people of northeast are not endangered,” Sarma said in Lakhimpur on Sunday.