The Union Cabinet has approved the Citizenship Amendment Bill, but the Center has not been largely successful in bringing groups from states in the North East. Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent meetings with representatives of the region have not cut much snow, however, he has been successful in stopping any large-scale immediate protests in most northeastern states except Assam.
From 29 November, Shah, assisted by Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, held several meetings with civil society groups and politicians in the region. The last of these meetings, with representatives from Manipur, ended well on Tuesday midnight.
In the meetings, Shah is believed to have dethroned the North Eastern states against the proposed amendments, which seeks to make unspecified non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan eligible for citizenship. North Eastern groups fear that once this bill is passed, the local population defined as indigenous to the region will be culturally and physically assimilated by migrants.
For weeks now, protests against the bill have spread throughout the Northeast state.
At the heart of Shah’s excesses was a proposal to twin the bill – which was passed in the Lok Sabha last year only for omissions in the Rajya Sabha – to exclude areas protected by Inner Line permits and Sixth Schedule provisions. In addition, the Home Minister has said that the bill will come with a strict cut-off date. Migrants entering after December 31, 2014 would not be considered eligible for citizenship under the bill, with many being part of recent meetings.
The inner line permit is a document requiring Indian citizens from other states to enter Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and most of Nagaland. Even longtime residents who do not belong to communities classified as “indigenous” in these states require permits, which they need to renew for six months.
On the other hand, the Sixth Schedule provides for autonomous decentralized self-governance in some tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura. In these areas, communities not considered local are prohibited from owning land and businesses.
Soft Stance: Mizoram and Nagaland
But groups in the North East are not entirely convinced – although some of them are a little more open to the idea than before. Take Mizoram, where protesters once threatened to “seek assistance from China”. Civil society groups now say that if the bill actually excludes Mizoram from its purview, they will consider opposing it.
“The Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has assured us that it will not affect us, because we do not have ILP,” said Lalmachuana, vice president of the largest and most powerful pressure group of the Mizoram, the Young Mizo Association. Population as members. “If that happens then it’s fine and fine – no problem.” There will be no protest against the bill. “
But approval was cautious. As Llamachuana said, “This is very misleading, however, as we are not sure how a law passed by Parliament can actually exempt certain areas.”
The Naga Students’ Federation also feels that it once opposed the bill. Its president Ninoto Awami said, “He has assured that the state of Nagaland will be completely exempted from the bill,” deciding any immediate protests against the bill, adding, “We will discuss further but so far they have given us full Has assured.”
While most of the state falls under the Inner Line Permit regime, Nagaland’s commercial center, Dimapur, is not. However, the group has been assured that the permit regime will now be extended to Dimapur as well. “This decision was taken a long time ago by the state government, but will be implemented now,” Awami said.
The primary opposition party in Nagaland, the Naga People’s Front, however was no less excited. “It should be specifically mentioned in the act that Nagaland is exempted,” said Achumbeo Kikon, a party spokesman.
But in Arunachal Pradesh, protected by Inner Line permits, the groups are treading cautiously. “For us, the exemption works, but we also have to support other states in the North East,” said Hawa Bagang, president of All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union.