Massive demonstrations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, shook Aizawl Wednesday. The Prime Minister and Home Minister were burnt in effigy, and numerous signs that said “Hello China, Bye Bye India” were raised, as more than 30,000 people responded to a call for protests by students and NGOs. Prominent student leaders warned that the youth in Mizoram might pick up arms if pushed to the wall.
All the powerful social organisations of the state, including the apex body of students, Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), and the largest nonprofit, Young Mizo Association (YMA), have resolved to boycott Republic Day celebrations in protest against the Bill.
Why are Mizos angry?
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Unlike in Assam, where the illegal migration from Bangladesh has been a decades-old issue, in Mizoram, the big perceived threat is from the influx of “illegal Chakmas”. The Chakmas are Buddhists, and number almost a lakh in Mizoram. Along with the Lais and the Maras (both Christians), the state’s other two ethnic minorities, the Chakmas make up over 10% of the state’s population.
Large sections of Mizos do not consider Chakmas as part of Mizoram, and accuse the community of crossing over illegally from Bangladesh. Mizo groups have led a spate of protests demanding that the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) be dissolved.
MZP general secretary Lalnunmawia Pautu told The Indian Express: “So many Chakmas are living illegally in Mizoram. Everyone will get citizenship if the (citizenship amendment) Bill is passed.” The proposed law, he said, is “extremely dangerous for the people of Mizoram and the Northeast”, and warned that disregarding the voices from the state might give rise to a violent secessionist movement like in the 1960s.
Lalhmachhuana, general secretary of the central committee of the Young Mizo Association (CYMA), said: “We Mizos oppose the CA Bill, 2016… The Government of India did not listen to our repeated requests.” The slogans of “Hello China” were intended to convey that “we are not safe in India”, Lalhmachhuana said.
A four-point resolution adopted by the MZP on Wednesday said that “to safeguard our land against the foreigners, we the Mizos will fight till our last breath”, and that changing the citizenship law would imply that “the government is favouring the foreigners over its own people living in the Northeast”.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which was passed in Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, by relaxing citizenship eligibility rules for migrants belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions — Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian — from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
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