Citizenship remain a contested idea especially in contemporary globalised world and to account for the changing contours of citizenship in India, The Citizenship Act of 1955 has so far been amended five times since its inception.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is the latest proposed amendment to the said Act of 1955 and will make it easier for Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi and Christian illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to obtain Indian citizenship by naturalization. The proposed Bill is in rough water primarily because of the communal undertone it imbibes. With respect to North East India, the said Bill is finding opposition from all quarter primarily because it will tilt the already precarious demographic composition of the region against the indigenous inhabitants. The Bill, if made into an Act, will have far reaching ramification for our region given the fact that we are already facing the pernicious tentacles of illegal immigrants with Tripura being its first victim. The proposed Bill, even if passed, may not withstand judicial scrutiny once it is challenged in a court of law but what is appalling and alarming is that it cast serious doubts on the sincerity of the central government to take into account the concerns and aspirations of the people of North East India. The proposed Bill makes mockery of the Assam Accord of 1985 as well as on the demographic challenges the indigenous people of NE facing on daily basis.
Population mobility due to persecution or in search for greener pastures is a reality that we cannot deny and in ever connected world that we live today, we cannot afford to cocoon ourselves but the encounter must not be at the cost of the indigenous people.
The debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill must take into account the apprehensions of the North East people and a possible way to placate and address the concern of the indigenous people of the region is to include a clause in the proposed Bill to exclude NE region from its ambit.
New Delhi must not be indifferent to the voices emanating from North East lest these voices find expression in unwarranted confrontations fuelling further isolation and enraging the volatile sentiment of the indigenous people.
It is prudent to remind ourselves here that so far had it not been for the geographical isolation and legislation like the Inner Line Permit and property ownership based on local residency, our way of life might have been obliterated long before. We should, therefore, maintain constant vigil lest brinkmanship of the present or any central dispensation endanger our very own existence.