With the Government of India all set to introduce the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has begun holding a series of consultative meetings in the last few days. Saturday last, Shah held discussions with leaders of political parties, student and civil bodies of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya on the contentious issues surrounding the CAB. The Union Home Minister has apparently assured them that the CAB may not affect tribal areas protected by the Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime and those who are governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
However, what has enraged the Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MANPAC) is the fact that no representative from Manipur was invited to these consultative meetings. MANPAC has explicitly termed the action of the Union Government as “violation of the indigenous rights” of the people of Manipur. Moreover, MANPAC feels that the steps taken by the government in the name of consultation is a clear-cut case of ‘divide and rule’ policy notoriously pursued to split the unified voices of the people of the Northeast on CAB. The response of MANPAC which is a conglomerate of many State based organisations is right on target given the fact that in the recent past, the polyphonic voices against CAB could indeed unite the tribes and communities of the Northeast region who otherwise pursue multifarious political agenda.
MANPAC is aware that if the assurance of Amit Shah is translated into action, Manipur will be ‘left out’ as an exception. Unlike Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, Manipur does not come under the ILP regime nor is the people governed by the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
It may be mentioned that the CAB seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, in order to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who come to country due to “religious persecution” in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan even if they do not possess proper legal documents.
Narendra Modi government’s determination to bring in CAB is perfectly in tune with the BJP’s commitment to fulfilling election promises made in 2014 and the 2019. While it is sure to reap rich electoral dividends in certain pockets in the future, a large section of the Northeast people will continue to oppose CAP tooth and nail. As Manipur continues to be vulnerable to the influx of illegal immigrants, it would not be wise for New Delhi to engage in the politics of indifference and choose to ignore the strident voices of protests.