Post Mortem

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019: Why Nagaland should reject it

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/17/2019 9:38:37 AM IST

 What is the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)?: The CAA passed on 12th December 2019 is a law that grants Indian citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jain, Buddhists, Parsis, and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who came to India on or before 31st December 2014. 

Why are people protesting? The protests against CAA across India are of two types that are at odds with each other:
1. Those opposing the CAA for its unconstitutionality because it does not include all religions. 
2. Those who oppose CAA not only because it is unconstitutional but also because it endangers the existence of the indigenous peoples of the Northeast.
The discourse in the national and international media, by and large, is about the unconstitutionality of the CAA because it discriminates on the basis of religion. However, for the indigenous peoples of the Northeast, and Nagaland in particular, the problem with CAA is not limited to its unconstitutionality. The massive influx of migrants into the Northeast poses a grave threat to their ethnicity, language, culture, land, resources, and jobs. This insecurity of indigenous peoples is not sufficiently articulated. Therefore we need to raise our concerns.    
Why Nagaland will not be adequately protected by ILP and Art 371A? The CAA will enable a massive inflow of newly legalised Indian citizens using ILP in the days to come. Some politicians as well as individuals in Nagaland are misleading the people on social media that the ILP and Art 371A will safeguard Nagaland. These two provisions look assuring on paper but in ground reality, Nagaland has not framed a concrete roadmap to implement these “safeguards”. 
ILP is not a sufficient safeguard because the same mechanism could allow a heavy influx of non-indigenous people putting undue strain on the infrastructural capacity of our towns and villages, civic management, law and order amongst others. Moreover the inefficient and lax nature of our state administration can also be exploited. The porous borders are constantly violated and at times it is only a street, a hill, a stream, or a patch of forest that demarcates the inner-line or autonomous districts (in the Northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura) from unprotected areas. The troubles of our neighbouring states will spill onto our state eventually. 
Our opposition to the CAA is not against any religion; it is a matter of our very existence. Thus, we should be careful about misusing the rhetoric of “illegal immigrants” to harass the migrants and fall into the trap of Hindutva politics of religious polarization. Art 371A is also not a sufficient safeguard because there is no clarity on how to apply Naga customary laws vis-a-vis the Indian constitution. To cite just one case among many, it is uncertain how the extraction of natural resources and minerals will be carried out, who the stakeholders are, and so on. Therefore, national and international corporations in collusion with corrupt or weak politicians, and local leaders could detrimentally exploit the land and resources. The ecological cost and settlement of migrant labourers to the oil fields is not studied or debated enough. 
We have also seen how constitutional safeguards are misused and dismantled through political subterfuge in the case of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status enshrined in Art 370. We should be wary of how the Government falls back on its promises. For instance, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s assurance in the Rajya Sabha that “Muslims have no need to fear or worry” was followed by a brutal crackdown a few days later on students protesting against the CAA at Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia. How then can we take Interlocutor and state Governor R. N. Ravi’s verbal assurance that Art 371A is a “sacred commitment” to the people of Nagaland seriously?
Demanding accountability from the electorate and politicians: Nagaland’s Lok Sabha MP, Shri Tokheho Yepthomi, gave his assent to the CAB on the grounds that Nagaland is exempted from its purview. He also thanked the Government of India for allowing the armed forces to operate in Nagaland due to the insurgency problem in the Northeast. This reveals that Shri Tokheho has either been trained to regurgitate the Central Government’s commands, or, he is extremely insensitive to the threats posed by the Bill not only to Nagaland but also to our neighbouring states that do not have similar “safeguards”.
On the other hand, Nagaland’s Rajya Sabha MP, Shri K. G. Kenye stated, “It’s about those illegal immigrants who have come into our region and threaten to overrun our population which is only about 4% of this country”. But he contradicts himself and proceeds to support the Bill that enabled it to become an Act. 
The Minister of Higher and Technical Education, Shri Temjen Imna Along, tweeted “Dear BJP karyakartas of Nagaland . The CAB is a boon for The Nation and it won’t effect (sic) the Indeginous (sic) Traditional Heritage of our people in any way. Congratulations to PM & HM for CAB.” This statement is misleading and callous towards the indigenous populace not only of Nagaland but also of other states. 
By electing leaders who are insensitive, callous, and self-serving, we the electorate have to introspect on what we bring upon ourselves. While the Chief Ministers of many other states have boldly rejected the CAA, the state government of Nagaland appeared to be reeling in the Hornbill festival hangover. Our state has not understood the gravity of the situation. We demand accountability from our legislators and that they apprise us of what specific legislative measures they will take to protect the indigenous electorate, local economy, employment avenues, and ecology of our state. We have to ensure that as a historically oppressed minority in India, we are not further marginalized economically, politically, linguistically, and culturally in our own home.
We appreciate the students and organisations of Nagaland that have raised their concern. We also urge the civil society and citizens of Nagaland to reflect on our beleaguered position and strongly oppose and reject the CAA through democratic and non-violent means.
The JNU students of Nagaland condemn the Lok Sabha MP and Rajya Sabha MP for compromising Nagaland’s future stability. It is the responsibility of the regional parties of Nagaland to represent the voice of the people and ensure that they are protected and served. They are not supposed to become the mouthpieces of national parties. Understanding the larger picture: The extension of ILP in Dimapur and Manipur is a divisive strategy to prevent a united mass opposition to the CAA in the Northeast. We should not remain ignorant and complacent because we are not immediately affected. Just as the CAA discriminates against the Muslims and threatens the existence of the indigenous communities of the Northeast, the democratic and constitutional rights of other religious and ethnic minorities could be further eroded. We need to be alert to the larger Hindutva agenda of homogenizing different ethnicities, language and religion into a Hindi-Hindu State. 
Some specific ways in which democracy is being eroded are:
• Restriction of food habits
• Curbing freedom of religion
• Intensification of military oppression
• Privatisation of education and healthcare and making them highly inaccessible for the poor and marginalised
• Weakening significant institutions viz. the judiciary, the CBI, the independence of media
• Curbing rational and critical thinking 
• Rewriting of history
• Dividing people on religious lines
• Harrassment and intimidation of dissenters
• Denial 
We conclude by borrowing from German theologian Martin Niemoller to our context: 
First they came for Jammu and Kashmir, and we did not speak out, because we thought Art 371A will save us.
Then they came for Assam, Tripura, and Meghalaya, and we did not speak out, because we thought ILP will save us.
Then they came for Nagaland — and the special provisions could not save us.
Concerned students of Nagaland, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) ltuvizokhole@gmail.com
 

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