Citizenship (Amendment) Bill: Northeast MPs raise concerns of threat to indigenous identity

Biswajit Daimary. File  

Amid protests in their home States, MPs from the northeast raised concerns over the potential flow of immigrants into the region and a threat to the indigenous communities, during the discussion before the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill by the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Assam MP, Biswajit Daimary of the Bodoland People’s Front, said “the indigenous people of the northeast have apprehensions when it comes to the Bill” as they have been “marginalised.” He said the people of Assam had “lost faith” as the Centre had not fulfilled its commitment to give constitutional protection under the Assam Accord of 1985. This was why locals were apprehensive about their own future if people from outside settle there, he said. He asked Home Minister Amit Shah to assure the people of the region that they would remain protected under the Sixth Schedule and Article 371 of the Constitution. Mr. Daimary ended his speech with that, but quickly got up to add he supported it.

Birendra Prasad Baishya of the Asom Gana Parishad said there was a fear among people in Assam that they would “lose our language and culture.” He said the Bill be not passed in a hurry.

‘Identity sacrosanct’

Hishey Lachungpa of the Sikkim Democratic Front said people in Sikkim “have many apprehensions” as they hold their identity as Sikkim subjects “sacrosanct.” He said people in Sikkim were opposed to “potential dilution of Article 371,” which gives special provisions to certain States, including Sikkim.

He said though the Home Minister had said Article 371 would not be diluted, the CAB went “against the spirit” of Article 371. He asked the government to extend the protection given to States that have Inner Line Permit, like Manipur, to Sikkim as well.

MP from the Naga People’s Front K.G. Kenye said he supported the Bill, stating that he came from the “ground zero” of the “controversy.”

“We don’t have religious bias. We are not communal and our sole objective of having staged this agitation is over the Centre’s inaction for a period of 48 years,” he said, adding that the CAB was not about religion but rather “illegal immigrants” that were “threatening to run over our population.”

Religious persecution

Opposing the Bill, Congress MPs from the region raised their concerns as well. Ronald Sapa Tlau, a Congress MP from Mizoram, questioned the “seriousness” of the government on addressing religious persecution.

“I smell something fishy because you are talking about protecting minorities from those countries, but India has become a hub of minority and Christian persecution... This is seen as a ploy to assimilate indigenous people and promote Hindutva ideology. The entire northeast is burning,” he said.

Wansuk Syiem, a Congress MP from Meghalaya, termed the Bill “retrograde” and said the protections announced by the Home Minister would not cover the urban areas in Shillong, which, she said, would become a “ghetto.”

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 11:16:25 PM |

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