[ Tongam Rina ]
The controversial citizenship amendment bill (CAB), amending the Citizenship Act of 1955, is set to make a comeback even as the Northeast of India has made its opposition to the bill clear.
Unlike in 2016, when the CAB had first been introduced in the Lok Sabha, this time the protest is largely subdued. Perhaps the muted protest is a sign of acceptance of the inevitable, or maybe it is the tried and tested tactic of ‘we will see when it finally arrives’.
The BJP government knows that it can’t afford to upset the people of the Northeast, but at the same time it is sure to reintroduce the CAB. It remains to be seen whether the same CAB will be reintroduced or if there will be modifications based on the recommendations from the northeastern states.
The CAB, 2016, which had lapsed, proposed to grant citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of stay in the country, even if they do not possess proper documents.
The bill excludes the Muslims, even though some of them face persecution in the three countries.
As the CAB is likely to be introduced in the winter session of the parliament, which starts on 18 November, Chief Minister Pema Khandu constituted a nine-member consultative committee on 8 October to “safeguard the rights of the indigenous people of Arunachal,” following the central government’s proposal for enactment of the CAB.
Home Minister Bamang Felix, who headed the committee, has met representatives of various organizations, as well as elected representatives, who have given their recommendations. Addressing the elected representatives, Felix said the state government would submit the report to the Centre to ensure that adequate provisions are incorporated in the CAB to safeguard the interests of the people of the state.
The consultative committee is set to meet on 15 November to finalize the recommendations.
According to the statement from the government, the legislators of the state reportedly expressed apprehension that amendment to the principal act of 1955 would badly affect the state in all spheres, unless the state is kept out of the purview of the CAB.
The have also suggested that the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR), 1873, and the Chin Hills Regulation (CHR), 1896, be turned into acts before amending the Citizenship Act, 1955, so that the provisions of the proposed CAB do not affect Arunachal.
It remains to be seen whether any of the suggestions will be incorporated by the Centre, but if the CAB becomes an act in its 2016 form, it will hurt the people of the state, which might result in detriment to the refugees who have called Arunachal home for almost five decades.
The Centre may go back to its earlier decision of granting citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees, based on the Supreme Court judgment, and introduction of the Tibetan rehabilitation policy.
Both were valid decisions but were counterproductive as the refugees became the subject of hate as the state saw protests against the Centre’s decision.
If the government pushes the CAB in Arunachal, it is likely to cause hurt to the Chakmas, Hajongs and Tibetans – the very people who the central BJP government wants to protect. Therefore, it is advisable that Arunachal is kept out of the purview of the CAB.