Once again, the Narendra Modi-led government is set to push for the passage of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, in Parliament’s Winter Session starting from November 18th, 2019. As reported, the government has listed the Bill in its items of business for the session.
The Bill – a major Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) plank – seeks to grant Indian citizenship to the people belonging to the Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis who have become the victims of religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and entered India on or before December 31st, 2014.
The BJP-led NDA government had introduced the Bill in its previous tenure. The Northeastern states witnessed massive protests by opposition parties and students’ bodies. Though the Bill was passed by the previous Lok Sabha in January 2019, it lapsed in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill was then referred to a Joint Committee of Parliament.
Protests broke out across Assam on November 15th, 2019 against the legislation. The All Assam Students’ Union, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, the main opposition Congress has slammed the Centre and criticized the Bill as discriminatory on religious grounds as it deliberately omits Muslims. The students’ bodies took out rallies and held sit-in demonstrations against the re-introduction of the Bill stating that it violates the historic Assam Accord.
The AASU and AJYCP asserted that the anti-Assam legislation will not be accepted by people of the state at any cost. In wake of the protest, Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the Bill will not impact the interests of indigenous people of the Northeast.
The introduction of the controversial assumes great significance as Union Home Minister Amit Shah has said that the Centre will introduce the National Register of Citizens exercise across the country
to weed out illegal citizens but only after the Bill is passed.
Shah, in his several speeches, has insisted that minorities (Hindus), from these countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – should be granted Indian citizenship.
Last year, all the Northeastern states united to protest against the Bill. A protest of this magnitude over a single cause was rare in the history of the Northeast region. The Asom Gana Parishad also had to face the wrath of the people for softening its stance and renewing its alliance with the BJP in Assam after coming out of the alliance over the Bill.
While for several decades now, the indigenous people of the Northeastern states have been living in constant fear of becoming outsiders in their own region. Now they are resolved to stand firm against the Bill which they say will jeopardise their existence. The Northeast region is once again determined to fight together to scrap not just the Bill but also the “dream of divisive politics” in the name of religion.