[ Tongam Rina ]
The Indian state has militarized Assam, following protests against the amended Citizenship Act (CA).
Six people are reported dead in police firing and at least 29 people have been injured in Guwahati. Internet remains shut down in most parts of upper Assam, and we have no way of knowing what is happening in most parts of the state where protests were at their peak.
With Assam burning, Arunachal has been badly affected as most of the essential items, including oil, come from Assam. Many people rely on Assam for medical needs.
The prices of vegetables have drastically shot up, and there are long queues at fuel depots across the capital region. The situation may get back to normal within a few days but the wounds of the people of Assam have been reopened. They are not going to heal so soon.
Assam’s movement against immigrants started in 1979, following an election in the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency in 1978, which witnessed a drastic increase in the number of voters because of the immigrants. According to records, 860 people lost their lives during the massive upheaval that ensued.
The movement culminated in the signing the Assam Accord in 1985, under which it was decided that immigrants who came to Assam prior to 25 March, 1971, would be given citizenship. Some clauses of the accord are yet to be implemented as politicians have continued to use immigrants as vote banks.
The current Citizenship Act nullifies the Assam Accord as it fixes 31 December, 2014 as the cut-off date for those who can claim citizenship.
Under the amended Citizenship Act, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be granted citizenship after six years of stay in the country, even if they do not possess proper documents.
The act excludes the Muslims, even though some of them face persecution in the three countries.
The protests in Assam are not based on religion, unlike in some parts of the country. What the Assamese are seeking is implementation of the Assam Accord.
The Modi government blatantly disregarded the accord, even as there is a committee for implementation of Clause 6 of the accord. The clause seeks to provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the cultural, social and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese community.
The committee is yet to submit its report.
Under the new act, a large part of Assam, excluding the tribal areas, which fall under the 6th schedule, will be under the Citizenship Act, which has triggered the protests. While the act has kept Arunachal, Mizoram and Nagaland out of its purview since these states come under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1883, the Centre also brought Dimapur in Nagaland, and Manipur under the BEFR.
Tripura will also be majorly affected by the new act as, even though many parts of the state come under the protected area, the major population is concentrated in areas which are not protected.
The Northeast, which has seen violence for many decades, had witnessed a near-normal situation in the last 15 years. But with the divisive act, peace has been undone, and one cannot be too sure what the future has in store.