By RK Nimai-
The New CAB, 2019 has been presented before the Lok Sabha and passed after a heated debate. In a short time it may be a part of the statute book. The present Bill differs from the earlier avatar in a few ways. The first is that there is now only one proviso under Clause (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Principal Act instead of the earlier two, and now a new Section 6B with 4 sub-sections have been inserted to the Principal Act. The new section besides others provides exemption of the amendment to the tribal areas of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under “The Inner Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
The Union Home Minister announced on the floor of the House that ILP Regime will be extended to Manipur, which may take some time as any laws enforced prior to the Constitution which are inconsistent or in derogation of the fundamental rights to the extent of such inconsistencies are void under Article 13. The Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 is repugnant to Article 19(1) and thus the extension may be made by Parliament under Article 19(5).
Many commentators have observed as if ILP Regime was earlier enforced in Manipur and was lifted by Himmat Singh in 1950. This is nothing but a total misunderstanding of the facts. The permit system for foreigners existed even during the time of Maharaja Chandrakriti with a resident stationed at Lakhimpur who issued the permits. The British started realising a fee for the permit. Manipur was not a part of the Dominion of India and all laws made for the Dominion is not applicable till it was adopted in Manipur, like IPC, CrPC, etc. The BEFR was not adopted by Manipur. The foreigner permit system was not under BEFR but was an act of the state in exercise of its sovereign powers.
Will ILP protect Manipur from the fallout of CAB 2019?
The question is partially answered by the opposition to CAB from states like Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland where ILP Regime is still in force, though the reasons for the objections are different. It may partially blunt some of the effects but it is not a reliable mechanism to stop any influx.
Migrants will not come in hordes but in trickle, except in the event of a major crisis like war, calamities, government policy, etc. With Lower Assam and part of Tripura coming under CAB, there is a strong suspicion that these parts will assists in getting citizenship and they may slowly come over time till they have number and claim political and other advantage. One can throw out a few hundred but it becomes a humanitarian issue when it involves thousands. That is the worry of CAB.
Under the existing citizenship law, there is also a provision for citizenship by naturalization under Section 6 where it was laid down that no illegal migrants are permitted to apply for naturalisation. The qualifications for naturalisation were set out at the Third Schedule to the Act. CAB 2019 with the 2015 amendments to the Passport (Entry into India) Rules 1950 and
Foreigners Orders, 1948 will allow millions of illegal migrants to turn into legal migrants and eligible for naturalisation. Even in the case of citizenship by birth as per the existing law if either of his/her parent is an illegal migrant the child is not treated as a citizen. CAB will make such people born to an Indian citizen with an illegal migrant also citizens.
In the Lok Sabha debate, many opposition members were confident that CAB will be struck down by the Supreme Court as it violates Article 14 which lays down “14, Equality before law- The state shall not deny to any person (emphasis added) equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”.
But how long will such a challenge come to a logical conclusion.
The WP (C) filed by Nagarikatwa Aiin Songsudhan Borodhi Maanch and others before the Supreme Court in late 2018 challenging the amendments to Passport (Entry into India) Rules 1950 and Foreigners Order 1948 on September 7, 2015 has not moved except for issuing notice to the Respondents. This is quite surprising as it must take on priority, cases relating to infringement of Fundamental Rights. By the time the case is decided, millions may have become citizens so for the sake of equity a stay must be sought immediately. If these two orders are quashed, CAB cannot stand on its own as it is a leg of a tripod with the other two.
The state government had gone overboard on the announcement of the UHM and even declared a holiday; perhaps partially to blunt the total shutdown called by NESO and implemented by AMSU in Manipur. ILP allows entry through a permit system but it does not bar purchase of land by outsiders. Land is critical for the natives to survive; if there is no competition on the land they can survive like the Tripuri but if land is not protected they will slowly be uprooted. The announcement is welcome as entry of outsiders can be regulated. But one moot point is what about those who had already settled in Manipur and even born here?
ILP was a good protective law prior to CAB but not with CAB.
In Manipur, the long-term effect of CAB will be felt more in the valley than in the hills, though the hills will also be affected as seen in Nagaland. The advantage of the hills is that land cannot be purchased by Non ST and despite most of the illegal migrants being converted as legal migrants by CAB elsewhere; they cannot come and permanently settle though quite a number will marry local girls and be admitted to the tribe of the spouse, as is the practice.
Chins who are Christians can make a claim that they are from the Chittagong Hill Tract of Bangladesh, of which there is no way of verifying and if they become Indian citizens and come to Manipur, the hills of Manipur will also not be safe. Even the list of STs and SCs need a proper review so that only natives are included in the list. Specific tribe names must be included and not generic names like Naga or Kuki. Those coming from outside can seek advantage in their native place and not in Manipur.
The only way to protect the natives is to protect the land.
If the land is not allowed to be purchased by outsiders, then there will be no permanent occupants, only temporary settlers. Therefore, there is a need to look into the various options to protect the land for the natives. Becoming ST is the most pragmatic option and there may be others; which need to be identified. The Indian Constitution only recognises religious and linguistic minorities but not ethnic minorities and that is the bane of all small ethnic communities. During the debate, it was clarified that citizenship was given to Indian Ugandans and Bangladeshis in the past which was also in violation of Art 14; which is not borne by facts as at those times there was no discrimination on race, caste, creed or religion. If the three neighbouring countries persecute their minorities, what was India doing? Did they ever complain to UNHCR?
Now coming to the crucial date for application for naturalisation what relevance December 31, 2014 has?
NRC recognises the crucial date as March 25, 1971 as prior to that, the minorities were persecuted in East Pakistan but on March 26, 1971 Bangladesh declared independence and there was no persecution of minorities. The date of December 31, 2014 was set by the two delegated legislation and can be changed anytime without coming to Parliament and mark my words, it will be reset subsequently.
CAB is enacted in “national interest” but pray what the national interest is?
What national interest is there when majority of the 4.51 crore (excluding Sikkim) of the Northeast opposes the Bill, though some chamchas and vested interest support it. What is the national interest when millions of aliens will become citizens and the only inference is that it is to create a vote-bank! Or do the mainland Indians distrust the race that has been the inhabitant of the region and wants their race to penetrate and dominate the region?
India must come out of the Partition hangover which seems to drag even after 70 years and racial mindset! Northeasterners don’t like aliens, irrespective of the faith they profess and where they come from. Maybe CAB may trigger violence as was witnessed in North Kamprup in 1980, Nellie in 1983, Bodoland in 2012 and 2014, etc.
MANPAC and NESO has organised bandhs but what about the political parties?
All political parties oppose only through press conferences. Even political parties once known for their street protest have failed to come out. People are fed up with leaders of minuscule political parties conducting press conferences of little consequence. If they are serious, better keep their mouths shut and join the protests.
The credibility of COCOMI as well as MANPAC seems to have been shaken and it reinforces the belief that Meitei knows how to start a movement but can never see it to its logical conclusion. MANPAC should have supported the total shutdown called by NESO to show solidarity and counter the divide and rule policy of the Centre. Manipuri have fallen into the trap of divide and rule policy. With six tribes in Assam becoming ST as announced by the UHM on the floor of Parliament, Meitei will be isolated among the natives of the NER as they will be the only one without this classification.
With the passing of CAB, the battle may be lost but the war is not over. A royal legal battle is in the offing and Manipur must join it rather than watching on the sidelines.
(The writer is a retired Commissioner)