The six-party Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government led by the National People’s Party (NPP) has unanimously decided to reject the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 at a Cabinet meeting chaired by the Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma here on May 8, 2018. The meeting was held just a day ahead of the visit by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Bill. The cabinet, having two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators, has decided to say a resolute ‘No’ to the Bill proposed by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the Centre to make illegal migrants belonging to six communities’ eligible for Citizenship of India.
It may be reminded that the Bill was introduced by Centre in Lok Sabha in July 2016 to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 and make illegal migrants who belong to six communities namely: Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.
The Meghalaya Cabinet while opposing the Bill stated that it does not serve the purpose of the people in Meghalaya being a small tribal state. It also termed the Bill as ‘Dangerous’, taking into consideration that Meghalaya and the North East region is bounded by Bangladesh, Nepal, China, and Myanmar. Justifying the stance, the cabinet pointed out that the Bill looks dangerous as a Christian or a Hindu once they are residing in the region in the six years can become a citizen of India.
Meghalaya is perhaps the first government to oppose the Bill, as the issues of indigenous tribals and the non-tribal conflicts have affected the developmental and progress of the state for over three decades now. The scar inflected by such communal related issues is impossible to remove and the undercurrent of fear psychosis is still running high in the state, hence, it is not difficult for the Ruling Government to feel the nerves of the citizen of the state, knowing it well that such action will give a jolt to the government, being an alliance of the NDA in the Centre.
It is one of the agenda of the Saffron party to form as many BJP government as possible, particularly in the North Eastern Region, such that the proposed Bill can easily sail through, whereas, the people of Assam which has a BJP government have once started an agitation on this issue. According to the masses in Assam, this bill makes certain illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship. In other words, it seeks to grant Indian citizenship to the illegal migrants who belong to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities coming from the mentioned countries.
Whereas the term “Assamese” covers the greater Assamese community inclusive of all the indigenous communities of Assam, hence, the amendment of the Citizenship Bill would not only be counterproductive to the development of the state but also put a question on the validity of the Assam Accord 1985 which demands the deportation of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
It may be reminded that the Assam singing superstar- Zubeen Garg has once again firmly opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. While attending a Bihu programme in Sonari, the singer even went on to say that one should tear up the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
He also voiced out against political parties like Congress and BJP on their stand regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Zubeen had stated that he does not care if it is the Congress or BJP in power, safeguarding the Rights of the indigenous Ahom or Assamese is the priority.
He also urged the people of Assam to come together and fight back against this Bill. He strongly stated that the people of Assam can by no means accept any more infiltrators in their native land. He also advocated the people to Say no to division of infiltrators and Bangladeshis in the name of religion. Say no to any sort of attempt which can challenge the demographic core of Assamese Nationhood.
The National Registration (NRC) documentation has been under process in Assam, the scrutiny acts mainly as the tool to identify infiltrators and deport them and can very much become their shield and legitimize them as a citizen of India. If the Bill is introduced, then it will be impossible to flush out the illegal migrants.
The Meghalaya Cabinet has boldly rejected the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and will surely set a trend for the rest of the states, particularly from North Eastern region, by proximity to the countries mentioned - Bangladesh, Nepal, China, and Myanmar will be greatly affected, whereas, the incumbent Chief Minister of Meghalaya who is yet to be elected to the Legislative Assembly, is doing his best to bring home as many central sponsored schemes and project this as his achievement within 100 days in office.
The Cabinet decision of May 8, 2018, might slow down the flow of central schemes. Knowing well that every action boils down to politics, the issue of infiltration as vote bank is not the only fear of the BJP, so also for the Congress, worst so it was based on caste and creed, religion and status. Hence, most of the stakeholders fear that the proposed Bill will only help the political parties, but will totally change the demography of the region.
The NDA has less than a year in power till the 2019 General Lok Sabha Elections, they have a lot to answer for to the electorate which has given them a huge mandate in the 2014 elections. As Narendra Damodardas Modi and his team seek re-election for the second term, they have a lot to justify; it is time for respective political parties to prepare the progress report of the last five years, instead of wasting time in politicking which could not unite the Indian citizens.