Protests were held in the north-eastern states opposing the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill on Monday (November 18). The protest rallies coincided with the first day of the winter session of Parliament during which the bill is proposed to be introduced.
What is the CAB?
The CAB was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8 this year but was not tabled in Rajya Sabha and had lapsed. It seeks to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India even if they do not possess any document.
During a recent meeting of BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance at Guwahati, Shah, who is also the party’s president, had said the concerns of the north-eastern states will be incorporated in the CAB and had sought suggestions on it.
Sit-ins were launched at various places in Assam. Effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal were also burnt by the youth organisation AJYCP in different parts of the state as a mark of protest.
The protests were held by the North East Students Organisation (NESO) — the region’s umbrella organization of student unions — its constituents, farmers’ body Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, youth body Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and Left-Democratic Mancha, Assam among others.
NESO submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah against CAB through the governors of the north-eastern states. The NESO and AASU, along with other organisations, took out a large rally from its headquarters at Uzan Bazar in Guwahati to the Raj Bhawan shouting slogans and waving banners and placards against the CAB.
NESO and AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya said, “Assam and the north-east are not dumping grounds for illegal Bangladeshis. As per the Assam Accord, we have already accepted all Bangladeshis – both Hindu and Muslims who entered Assam illegally up to 1971. We will not accept those who entered Assam after that year.”
Commenting on the contention of Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and other BJP leaders that a lot of problems will be solved if the CAB is enacted, Bhattacharya said, “The Bill will safeguard the vote bank of BJP. They (BJP) want the votes of illegal Bangladeshis. They have the numbers in Delhi (Parliament) and they will impose the CAB on us.
AASU president Dipanka Nath said, “The CAB is the death knell for the Assamese community. It will make the Assamese people extinct. It will open the door for more Bangladeshis to enter Assam.”
In neighbouring Meghalaya Khasi Students Union, an influential students body in the state, held a sit-in near the third secretariat here. A group of anti-CAB protesters will launch a ‘stay off the road’ protest from 7 pm on Monday till 6 am on Tuesday (November 19).
State Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had met Shah last week and urged the Centre to consider withholding passing of the CAB in its current form.
A rally was taken out in Aizawl by the Mizoram apex students body Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) on Monday in protest against the CAB.
The protestors said the Centre’s decision to introduce and pass the bill will create a huge demographic imbalance in the north-east as millions of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh were residing in the area.
MZP leaders expressed the fear that the bill, if legislated would legalise thousands of Chakmas who had illegally migrated to Mizoram from CHT in Bangladesh.
It submitted a memorandum to Mizoram Governor P S Sreedharan Pillai at the Raj Bhavan stating its opposition and also demanded that the north-eastern states be exempted from its purview.
In Itanagar, The All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU), a NESO constituent along with other students’ bodies of the state, held a protest march and demonstrated in front of the Raj Bhawan.
“North-East is not a dumping place for illegal migrants. Under no circumstances will CAB be accepted. Our protest against the anti-indigenous Bill will continue,” AAPSU president Hawa Bagang said.
In Kohima, the Joint Committee on Prevention of Illegal Immigrants (JCPI) has called for 18 hours Nagaland bandh on Tuesday on the issue.
JCPI convener K Ghokheto Chopi and secretary Tia Longchar in a statement said that the North East Forum for Indigenous People have directed all federating states organisations to initiate a united mode of agitation to oppose its passage.
“The indigenous population will become a minority in their own land like in Tripura once this becomes an Act,” the JCPI leaders said.
The committee requested the people of Nagaland to participate in the strike and asked all shops and business establishments to voluntarily down their shutters as a mark of protest.
(With inputs from agencies)