The North-Eastern parts of the nation are on the road to protest against the new Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) that has now become an Act with the consent of President Ram Nath Kovind late on Thursday night. Protests against the new legislation that attempts to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants have left two dead in Guwahati. Two minor protesters died on Thursday evening while the pubic challenged the curfew order and hit the street, police opened fire on rebels in Guwahati, the epicentre of the massive protests that have brought Assam to a standstill.
Train services to Assam and Tripura have, and many fights to Guwahati has been cancelled given the protests against the Citizenship Act. The Internet has been suspended for another 48 hours in Assam and Tripura where the protests had intensified after Amit Shah tabled the controversial Citizenship Bill and Rajya Sabha passed it.
Currently, the authorities have relaxed the curfew in Guwahati, Dibrugrah and Shillong for a few hours as the situation improved. However, schools and colleges remain shut, and the ban on internet services will continue until December 16.
Why is there a protest in Assam?
Apart from Bengali speakers’ dominated Barak valley, people in other parts of Assam fear CAB will lead to lakhs of Hindus from Bangladesh overpowering indigenous communities, straining resources and causing a threat to their language, culture and tradition. CAB redefined this cut-off date to 2014, but protesters say Assam suffered due to immigrants from 1951 to 1971, while other states did not, and it is wrong to impose more on the land. Protesters state they do not trust the Centre and CAB will undo the Assam Accord.
Back in 1979, during the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha bypoll, people noticed an unusual increase in voters and concluded that it was due to the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. It led to massive and violent unrest in which 885 people were killed over six years. The stir only ended when the Centre signed the Assam Accord in 1985
Under the Assam Accord of 1985, immigrants who have entered
Assam before or on March 25, 1971, was to be given citizenship. In this people was not discriminated based on religion and whoever entered after the said date were to be expelled. The CAB Act shifts this cut off date to December 2014; hence protesters state that this is a violation of the accord.
What is NRC?
The National Register of Citizens was a promise made in the Assam Accord to identify and deport immigrants. When the report was published, it had become apparent that the majority of those denied citizenship were Hindus or indigenous tribes. Protesters say CAB will make NRC irrelevant and offer citizenship to illegal immigrants. However, the Asom Gana Parishad says, Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will protect Assam from the adverse impact of CAB.
What does Clause 6 propagate?
It is one among the promise made in Assam Accord; it states that–“Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”
What is Inner Line Permit?
It is a system introduced for border areas by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. People outside the declared area can only visit if they have a permit. This system is now being used to protect certain areas from the purview of CAB. Places notified for protecting tribes under Sixth Schedule Areas of the Constitution too have been placed outside CAB’s competence.
ILP applies to most areas of other NE states. In Assam, Karbi Anglong, Dima Haso and Bodoland are protected under the Sixth Schedule. However, they make only seven out of 33 Assam districts.
The Chief Minister of the Sothern state of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday declared that the state will not implement CAB, 2019 passed by the Parliament. While addressing the press conference, the CM alleged that by passing the CAB, the BJP was executing the RSS agenda to divide the nation on communal lines. The CM also made it clear that they would challenge the CAB in all available forum, including the Supreme court.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi has filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
While on the other hand Amit Shah, has made it clear that the northeast states culture, social identity, language and political rights will be intact and Modi govt will protect them.