Post Mortem

Citizenship Amendment Act 2019

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/12/2020 12:48:24 PM IST

 Let me, first of all, address a specific point in The Citizenship Act 1955before I come to the context of our State Nagaland.In the Act of 1955, it is specified that a person may acquire Indian Citizenship through five methods, viz. by birth in India, by descent, through registration, by naturalization and by incorporation of territory into India.  

Now when we speak of the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, many who are for this Act has portrayed the picture in such a way that the number of years required for citizenship by naturalization, i.e. from 11 years to 5 years, and the so-called humanitarian act of rescuing those persecuted on religious grounds has taken the center stage of the argument. However, what we must realize here is that, amongst all protests and agitation in the name of infringing on the fundamental rights, one very important point is being left out and that is the very definition of “Illegal immigrants”.

In the Citizenship Act 1955, under the Citizenship by Naturalization, it is specifically mentioned that and I quote, “ Where an application is made in the prescribed manner by any person of full age and capacity,(Not an illegal immigrant) for the grant of certificate of naturalization to him, the Central government may, if satisfied that the applicant is qualified for naturalization, under the provisions of the Third Schedule, grant to him a certificate of naturalization.”

Now, with the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019, the illegal immigrants will longer be illegal, any person who comes to India without any proper documentation can be granted citizenship should he/she have resided in the country for a minimum of 5 years. Further, the secular fabric of the country is being disturbed no matter how much the people who are supporting CAA, claims that it has nothing to do with religion.  Let us study the case and see if truly the central government plans to give citizens to the persecuted minorities of neighboring countries. If so, why is it only the three countries, namely Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why not people from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and the Buddhists from Tibet? Does this Act truly stand for what it says it stands for or is it only an Act to garner political vote banks taking into consideration the feelings of the majority in the country. 

Coming to the context of Nagaland, we know that our State is most vulnerable to the threat of migrants and illegal immigrants taking over the State’s economy as the indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland has been dependent on them for decades now. From menial jobs to business establishments and so on and so forth, they have gradually flourished right under our nose. The hard-working culture that we Nagas once pride ourselves with is fading away at a dangerous pace. For this same reason, we have opened up the floodgates for people to come to our State seeking economic stability.  This government has been flip-flopping on the issue of Citizenship Amendment Act right from the start and parroting that the State is protected and safe under ILP and Article 371(A). For the benefit of the August house, let me recall and bring to the attention of all the honorable members, on what this government had done till date on this issue. 

a. On 5th June 2018, the PDA Cabinet took a decision not to oppose the CAB 2016.

b. And on 7th January 2019 and decision was taken for reviewing and reexamining the Bill.

c. Further, on 17th January 2019, yet another decision was taken at the Cabinet meeting reiterating their stand on CAB 2016.

d. And finally, taking a huge U-turn just 10 days later, that is on 28th January 2019, they decided to oppose the Bill. As you can see Sir, this government does not know what they themselves are doing. To add salt to the wounds of the Naga public, the government after taking unilateral decisions after decisions, finally decided to call for a so-called consultative meet with the stakeholders on 31stJanuary 2019, which I and my party in the opposition bench felt is a poor face-saving act and a desperate attempt by the government to hoodwink the Naga public. But I can assure you that Nagas are not as dumb as you take them to be and we have all seen what and how the government is putting the future of the Nagas in a peril. 

Speaker Sir, if the State of Nagaland is protected and safe as the treasury bench claims, why would they support and oppose at the same time? Does this not vindicate the stand that our party has taken since the start that should CAA be implemented; our State will be an easy target and the future of the Nagas will be a threat. 

What according to the Leader of the House is the Inner Line Permit system which has legal effect through the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation 1873? Let us assume that Nagaland is exempted from implementing CAA as we covered under ILP, however who can guarantee that the BEFR 1873 which is not even an act of Parliament or in the Constitution will continue to remain and protect us. A regulation which is of pre-independence, way back 1873 of the British colonial era, can be removed and annulled, should it no longer serve the purpose and cause hindrance to the hidden and ulterior motives of a few elite class. Have we not witnessed in the recent past, how the parliament was able to abrogate even the articles in the constitution? So now, what would Nagaland and Nagas do when ILP of BEFR 1873 is removed and CAA becomes fully functional in Nagaland.  One thing which we must keep in mind is that, no matter how well the ruling bench think that we are protected, as long as we are under the constitution of India, to which all the members hold allegiance, CAA will definitely have a huge negative impact on the social set up of our people in the long run if not immediately. 

Our State borders are porous, the hordes of illegal and legal immigrants from the neighboring States will find their way into our State legally or illegally. Who can stop the people who are granted citizenship from the State of Assam by the powers vested in the CAA act, from making their way into our State? We have seen that the most vociferous State against this Act was the State of Assam. Do we not know the reason behind so much anger and concern that the people of Assam hold when it comes to this subject? The much-hyped NRC drive in Assam is now more or less useless as CAA 2019 now would grant citizenship to people who came to India on or before 31st December 2014, whereas their NRC drive was to find out and deport the immigrants who came and settled after 24thMarch 1971. 

We now know that close to 20 lakhs did not feature in the final NRC of Assam, which is more than our States population. With the CAA, how many are likely to become legal citizens of India and for economic reasons, the neighboring States of Assam will bear the burn of absolving these people, particularly our State which is very vulnerable as I have stated earlier. 

It is important to remember that, the northeastern states of India share borders with Bangladesh from which the most immigration is taking place illegally and rightly so the most protest in from the Northeast though now it has spread across the length and breadth of the Nation after the bill passed in the parliament. Should we remain idle and do little about this, a day will come when it will be too late for us to save ourselves from the impending dangers of mass immigration into our State thus disturbing and putting our indigeneity at risk.  Now, coming to the ambitious endeavor of the Government to screen between indigenous and non-indigenous Nagas, against the objections raised by us for its ill prepared modalities when it was initially mooted, we have failed to see the result of the commission which was set up for this purpose. What and where is this RIIN (Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland) commission and their result? Was not the month of October 2019 the deadline forit to submit their reports? How long before we can finally get to see the final report and modalities of the same?

The government of the day should for once and all take a firm stand and also show the public that they care for the posterity of the Nagas so that we will not be overrun by immigrant populace and become a minority in our own State like our Northeastern brothers in Tripura. 

(To be concluded)

T. R. Zeliang, Leader of Opposition NLA

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