On a day the Union Cabinet approved the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, influential sociopolitical groups and opposition political parties in Assam, and many other states of the region, reiterated their commitment to protest against the proposed law.
The CAB proposes to amend Citizenship Act, 1955, by relaxing the eligibility rules for an immigrant — belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan — in getting Indian citizenship.
General secretary of the powerful All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Lurinjyoti Gogoi, told The Indian Express: “There can be no compromise on CAB; we will never accept it. There can be no bargain. Our protests will continue.” The CAB, he said, violates Assam Accord as well as secular principle of the Indian constitution.
Adviser to AASU, Samujjal Bhattacharya, told reporters late Tuesday night that according to Assam Accord, the midnight of March 24, 1971 was set as the cut-off date for identification and deportation of “illegal Bangladeshis”, but through CAB the government is trying to regularise “illegal Bangladeshis” up to 2014.
He said the CAB poses “immense threat” to the existence, identity and culture of Assam’s indigenous people.
Other influential outfits such as Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, led by prominent activist Akhil Gogoi, have also pledged to continue their protests against CAB.
The AIUDF, led by Lok Sabha MP and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, staged protests in Guwahati on Wednesday and sent a memorandum to Shah, stating that the party stands by Assam Accord and its cut-off. The party echoed that the CAB violates the Constitution and Assam Accord.
State Congress spokesperson Rhituporna Konwar said, “We totally oppose CAB and will continue our protests against it. It is unconstitutional and illegal.”
However, AGP, an ally of BJP in the state government, has said it will not oppose CAB, and that people should instead focus on “what best we can get by bargaining with the Centre”.
What may offer a twist to the opposition to CAB in the region is the development that the three northeastern states with Inner Line Permit (ILP) system — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram — and regions under 6th Schedule have been exempted from the modified CAB.
The ILP is a special permit required by “outsiders” from other parts of India to enter these three border states. There has been a demand for similar ILP system in states of the region, too.
The 6th Schedule of Constitution relates to special provisions in administration of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram and paves way for the formation of autonomous district councils (ADCs). Meghalaya has three ADCs covering practically the entire state; there are three ADCs in Assam and one in Tripura.
Lalhmachhuana, general secretary of the central committee of the powerful Mizoram NGO Young Mizo Association, said, “We have been assured by the Home Minister that ILP states and autonomous district councils of the Northeast will not be affected by the ILP.”
In Meghalaya, Donald Thabah, general secretary of the influential Khasi Students’ Union, said provisions of the CAB will be confirmed only after the text of the Bill is made public.