Power politics and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

[ Ranjit Sinha ]

While the district administrations across Aruna-chal Pradesh are busy with disaster preparedness, the ruling BJP seems to have embarked on poll preparedness ahead of the assembly election early next year.
Was not the recent major cabinet and bureaucratic reshuffle a part of its pre-poll strategy? The people in the corridors of power may dismiss this statement, since reshuffling is more or less a routine exercise of the government; but what the chief minister announced in a public meeting just a few days after the cabinet reshuffle bared it all.
“BJP will not enter into pre-poll alliance with any party, as it is confident of winning all the 60 seats,” the CM said.
Following the CM’s statement, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee launched a scathing attack on the ruling BJP, ridiculing the CM’s claim that the BJP would win all 60 seats in the coming assembly election, and terming his claim “just a flight of fancy.”
Electoral politics in Arunachal Pradesh is like a friendly match that is played even after elections, sometimes involving the judiciary. However, this time the people of the state are yet to witness a mass shifting of party loyalty at the district and grassroots levels as a pre-poll arrangement which may be followed by post-election shifting of political loyalty by elected leaders, depending on which party is ruling at the Centre.
Unfortunately, these are also unofficial ‘routine exercises’ that have been going on for decades in the political arena of Arunachal Pradesh.
One would expect that, when it is a matter of the state and its people’s interest, power politics should not come in the way. All the political parties and the civil society should come together and take a concrete decision against any proposal of the Centre which may spell doom for the tribal people of the state in the near future.
The recent statement of the CM regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seems to be unconvincing and inconclusive. The CM said that Arunachal Pradesh does not have to worry about the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, as the state is protected by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873. He further said, “It is not a concern for Arunachal as the state cabinet had already made it clear in the assembly that it rejects the citizenship of Chakmas and Hajongs.”
On the other hand, the Congress said the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and the BEFR “are two different acts,” and “the CM’s statement is unconvincing when the Chakmas, Hajongs and Tibetans (who are all foreigners) already enjoy all the liberties in our state without ILPs.”
The party also flayed the state BJP government for not insisting with the Joint Parliamentary Committee to visit Arunachal.
PPA president Kahfa Bengia said, “The bill includes Buddhists, and there are several Tibetans (Buddhists) acquiring Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe status in Tawang and West Kameng districts illegally. If the bill is passed, it will pave way not only for the Chakma (mostly Buddhists) and Hajong (mostly Hindus), but also for illegal Tibetan migrants soon enough.”
The bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2016, proposes to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 and make minority Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh eligible for applying for Indian citizenship. It also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalization.
Therefore, at this juncture, a major issue like the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill should not be overlooked, and the state government should have a re-look at the proposals of the bill which has already drawn flak in most of the states of the Northeastern region.