Post Mortem

CAB 2019: The great lotus ‘rope trick’ unfold

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/29/2019 12:05:35 PM IST

 (From previous issue)

This act goes against the fundamental tenets of the constitution; it is not just a question secularism but that of a Justice, equality, liberty and constructive liberalism as well. By adopting this regressive provision, I do not have an iota of doubt that the India is going in the direction of Law of Return of Israel that Israel is a natural home of all Jews.

This Act suppresses the voices of the people which is a blow to the core of democracy where the voices of the people, their aspirations given paramount importance. Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is not just a betrayal of the people of Assam, but also an invalidation of their struggle that brought Assam Accord in 1985. The demand of Assamese has always been to protect their lands from millions of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants which seriously pose a threat to the very survival of the people and their culture. Assam Movement was never against any religion; however, it is the government by enacting this communal Act dividing society into Hindu-Muslims. Assam Movement was a battle against people who have been coming illegally in Assam bypassing the immigration norms. It was a raging issue soon after Independence forcing the government to bring the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act in 1950. A National Register of Citizens (NRC) was to be prepared on the basis of Census 1951. The NRC finally came up earlier this year only to be turned out as a failed exercise and to supplement it CAB was introduced which has been widely opposed; that now has become a law. 

However, question arises as to whether this matter is simply an internal matter of Assam, whether CAA will have any impact on neighbouring state including Nagaland, whether Art. 371(A), Inner Line Permit System is robust enough to face this new menace. We need to take out sometime to ponder upon it. The problem of Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants is not new to this region. Assam has been directly affected primarily because it shares 263 kilometres (163 mi) of border with Bangladesh out of which 143.9 kilometres (89.4 mi) is land and 119.1 kilometres (74.0 mi) is riverine. To control the influx of certain measures were taken in the past. When Bangladesh was not in existence, it was a part of Pakistan that was known in the past as East Pakistan (previously East Bengal)from which gradually after the partition of India saw millions of people migrating in India. These waves of Refugees who sneaked through Assam Border in India did not remain in India but gradually spread all over the northeast and also the eastern regions of the country including West Bengal. That was the beginning of a disaster; this was the point from where the illegal movements of East Pakistani Bengali immigrants started and continued, right up to the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, both on an ongoing basis and with spikes during periods of particular communal unrest such as the 1964 East Pakistan riots and the 1965 India-Pakistan War, when it is estimated that 600,000 refugees left for India. Estimates of the number of refugees up to 1970 are over 5 million attributed to West Bengal alone. This includes around 4.1 million coming between 1946 and 1958 and 1.2 million coming between 1959 and 1971.Another major influx into India came in 1971 during the Bangladesh Liberation War. It is estimated that around 10 million East Bengali refugees entered India during the early months of the war. These refugees remain in India and became the citizens of India and never went back to independent Bangladesh due to economic, fear of insecurity for being a minority there.Along with Bengali Hindus, minority Chakmas and Hajongs too fled the erstwhile East Pakistan to take shelter in the Northeast during that period. The existence of Chakmas and Hajongs in their native place was further imperilled by the construction of the Kaptai dam on the river Karnaphuli in 1962.They entered India through what was then the Lushai Hills district of Assam (today’s Mizoram). While some stayed back with the Chakmas who were already living in the Lushai Hills, the Indian government gave settlement to a majority of the ‘recognized’ refugees in the sparsely populated North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), present-day Arunachal Pradesh.

The immigration issue is a worldwide nationality phenomenon. India is not exceptional that in turn is impacting Northeastern region of India and even the Nagas. The conflicts that occurred inBodoland between indigenous Bodos and illegal Bangladeshi immigrantsis a proof that the protected areas are bound to be troubled by the illegal immigrants. Moreover, illegal immigrants are able to easily obtain forged citizenship documents, enabling them to vote and access government services. The creation of the BTC and BTAD has failed to protect the rights of the Bodos or curb the unabated illegal migration from Bangladesh, leaving them increasingly vulnerable. The case of Bodoland can be a test case to all protected areas to assess their situation in the context of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and its possible impact with reference to the legalization of millions of people who have already been migrated, mixed, living, settled among different ethnic tribal populations of entire northeast for the past 70 years. 

Moreover, in the commercial hub Dimapur, the population of these immigrants is quite big but officially this fact has not been confirmed. However, a stroll on the streets of Dimapur, local street markets will reveal a lot more shocking story that the papers of government may not. Majority of the labourers in Dimapur are reportedly from Bangladesh. Street vendors are from Bangladesh. All the north-eastern states were facing the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh, which posed a threat to the social fabric of the region and the demography of the state. Northeast India will definitely not like to see multiple Tripuras in making. 

Moreover, the question of cut-off date which is set as 31st December, 2014 is irrelevant since maximum damage due to illegal immigrants has already been done in the last seven decades, the only difference is, by virtue of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 the damage has now been legalized. The beneficiaries of people now can very well follow the procedure of application for e.g in Assam if not in Nagaland since Nagaland has been exempted from the operation of CAA and become official, bonafide, naturalized citizens and apply for ILP and enter Nagaland for different purposes including that of ‘employment’. Now, question is, on what ground can they be stopped from entering in Nagaland once they become legal citizen of the Republic of India? Our existing ILP system and Art 371 (A) will not be able to have much influence over the population of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants which already exist amongst us. Moreover, it is suspected that we already have approx. 12%(statistics may vary) of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants of our total population in Nagaland. Isn’t it a matter of grave concern? 

Moreover, the instances of allegations of forged documentary evidences to support citizenship claims has also come in the light which directly impacted the local and state politics in northeast to the great extent. Also, it needs to be taken into account that the state of Nagaland shares its borders with Assam to the west and Arunachal Pradesh & Assam to the north. Moreover, it is blessed to have Dimapur as a Railway station that connects it not only to the rest of the northeast via Gauhati but also to the rest of India. Nagaland is not secluded or fortified, and it can never be. Physical barriers or legal barriers cannot stop Nagaland from getting exposed to the reality of the outside world. Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 brought a question not only of Constitutional survival of all the people of India, but also, the survival of culture and traditions that has been gifted to our Naga and other indigenous people by their great ancestors.

As reiterated by various legal experts, jurists, constitutional experts from time to time that the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 is unconstitutional. CAA will not stand to the test of the Constitution. All Assam Students Union, AIMIM chief AsaduddinOwaisi, Tripura royal scion, chairperson of Joint movement against CAB, PradyutDebbarman, Trinamool Congress MP MahuaMoitra, Congress leader and former minister Jairam Ramesh have filed their petitions before the Supreme Court to challenge the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019. It is heard that many more stakeholders including individuals, students unions, civil society organizations in different parts of the northeast will soon be moving to apex court to challenge the Law which has been democratically rejected by the majority of people of the northeast. The Final Constitutional mandate is yet to be delivered, but the people have already given their mandate. Let Democracy prevail!

(Concluded)

Dr. Aniruddha Babar, Tetso College, Dimapur (aniruddha.v.babar@gmail.com)

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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