Citizenship Bill will balkanise Northeast: rights group

“The bill, if passed, would throw out some 10 lakh people from Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland,” says Delhi-based rights group Rights & Risks Analysis Group.

Published - November 02, 2019 12:52 am IST - GUWAHATI

The Central government’s move to push a revised Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in the winter session of Parliament will have repercussions across the north-eastern states and balkanise the region, according to Delhi-based rights group Rights & Risks Analysis Group.

The bill, if passed, would throw out some 10 lakh people from Manipur and three north-eastern States, where inner-line permit (ILP) was applicable besides Manipur, the group said on Friday.

Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland are governed by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1873, under which Indian nationals from other parts of the country have to possess an ILP to visit temporarily. In 2018, the Manipur Assembly passed the Manipur People’s Protection Bill that seeks to expel people who or whose forefathers were living in the State before 1951.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and the ruling BJP had, in reaction to vociferous protests against the CAB in the Northeast, proposed to tweak the bill so that it does not override the BEFR. If this is done, more than 10 lakh people can be identified as illegal residents and dumped on Assam.

“Instead of expelling the alleged foreigners, Assam will end up receiving more than a million people before 2024,” said Suhas Chakma, director of the rights group.

The BEFR, Mr. Chakma said, was enacted to insulate the tribal areas and all non-tribal people who could not establish their descent from 1873 may be identified as illegal residents. The 2011 census said Mizoram had 61,091, Nagaland 2,67,529 and Arunachal Pradesh 4,31,906 non-tribal people, while Manipur had lakhs of people who might not have documents to prove their residence prior to 1951. “All these people are expected to be dumped on Assam.”

Religious minorities who fled alleged persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan were being “fooled” with the CAB promise. There was no guarantee that if it was enacted, the citizenship applications of those excluded from the National Register of Citizens would be processed by Assam or the Centre, it said.

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