Guwahati in lower Assam and Dibrugarh in upper Assam are burning since the Rajya Sabha passed the CAB Bill on 1 December. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) will grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities like Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian of three countries, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan; but the unease that spread on the ground about what it will mean for the diversity of the country if the Bill is discriminatory in its own. In Assam, for example, observers say the division between the Assamese-speaking Brahmaputra Valley and the Bengali-speaking Barak Valley is likely to get shaken up and that relations between tribals and the Bengali-speaking majority in Tripura will also be affected by this new Act.
Why is Assam burning?
Between 1979 and 1985, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad spearheaded a movement against illegal migration of refugees, leading to violence. After thousands of people lost their lives, Assam Accord was signed in the year 1985 that focused mainly on two key concerns– for stopping “foreigners” from Bangladesh and to provide safety for the Assamese people.
One was the cut-off date for foreigners to gain citizenship was set on 25 March, 1971. Though initially, the leaders of the movement wanted illegal migrants to be expelled as per the National Register of Citizens 1951 of Assam, agitation leaders had also spoken of a 1967 cut-off; and Clause 6 of the Accord stated 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.” The AASU on Friday filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India challenging the Act, according to the outfit’s chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya. He told the gathering which had defied curfew to protest against the Act: “[Narendra] Modi had promised to deport all illegal immigrants after 16 May, 2014. He did not send back a single illegal Bangladeshi; instead, he is now welcoming them.
What about protection under the Sixth Schedule?
The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, while inserting a new sub-section 6B, listing out the provisions to grant citizenship rights to Hindu and other non-Muslim minorities of three countries, says– “nothing in this section shall apply to tribal area[s] 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”.
Why are Tripura and Meghalaya in anger?
After passing the Bill in both houses of parliament, Home Minister Amit Shah met delegations of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, and Tripura’s royal family head, Kirit Pradyot Deb Barman, who later tweeted: “Told him [Shah] we are going to SC [Supreme Court] against CAB as we cannot compromise! No retreat no surrender!” The state is now overrun by migrants, first from East Pakistan and then from Bangladesh and now the Bengali-speaking population is a majority in Tripura and runs the affairs of the state. Fears of a similar fate are real and widely held across all states in the region claimed by a journalist.
Majority of Meghalaya state is protected from CAB because of the 6th Schedule. Protesters want the Governor, Tathagata Roy, to take strict action against it and stop the outsiders’ entry in the state. There were protests against Tura MP, Agatha Sangma (daughter of P.A. Sangma and sister of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma), who stood in favour of CAB for the National People’s Party, which is an ally of NDA government.
So the question now is when every single citizen is unhappy with the CAA, when every state is burning in the name of CAA, shouldn’t government rethink about Bill or decision of introducing the CAA Act into the constitution? Or is it now a fight of government v/s citizens ego? Who will survive and what will survive is still something to look onto till then the rage, loss, anger and harm every common man is facing as we always put into this gorge without thinking about us for once.