The impact of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which was passed by Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019 and which is pending in the Rajya Sabha is that this has erupted into a series of agitations and protests since that fateful day, particularly in the North Eastern region. In the case of Meghalaya it took a different turn when the sitting BJP Member of Legislative Assembly of South Shillong, Sanbor Shullai threatened to quit the party if the controversial Bill is passed by the Rajya Sabha.
It may be reminded that with great struggle and hard work of the grassroot workers the BJP was once again able to make inroads in the state, as the BJP managed to win two seats in the 60-member Meghalaya assembly 2018 election. The party is now supporting the Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma.
In his letter to Modi on February 5, Shullai stated: ‘Considering the outcome of the proposed bill, I have left it to the wisdom of the people of my state and I have decided to leave the party within one month in the event of the proposed bill is passed in Rajya Sabha without taking into consideration the opinion of the people of my state Meghalaya and the people of the North Eastern Region.’
Shullai also said that during the continuous meeting held at his residential office and in his constituency; about 10,000 plus supporters who have joined the party are willing to resign if the Northeastern Region including Meghalaya is not exempted from the implementation of the Bill.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government headed by Narendra Damodardas Modi, having the single majority in Lok Sabha, managed to push the Bill through easily, whereas, the party is finding it difficult to do the same in the Upper House. The Bill might have been accepted by the rest of the Indian states, but not in the case of North Eastern Region where the protesters fear that the Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion and it would be difficult to identify people based on religion.
Most of the governments in the North Eastern states have opposed the bill except in Assam and Tripura which have BJP governments and are trying to convince the protestors that the bill is historic and will surely protect the interest of the region.
In the last election, Mizoram did not allow the BJP to make inroads into the state. This was due to the phobia of Saffronization, and of course the Beef ban in the Christian State which was another issue. According to the political pundits, the protest against the CAB is worse than the Saffronization phobia, therefore, this might erode the vote bank of the saffron party from the region and Meghalaya in particular.
As pointed out by Shullai, the proposed bill has drastically changed the prospects of the party in the North Eastern Region as he joined the party considering the prospect of the party which has come with a vision to develop Meghalaya and the North Eastern Region. However the decision of the party to implement the Bill in the North Eastern Region is very disappointing as there are various drawbacks in the bill which need to be discussed with stakeholders of the region including all political parties, leaders of various NGOs and traditional bodies before implementing the same. Shullai had elaborated on this in his memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister on January 12, 2019 where he highlighted various flaws with regard to the bill.
Knowing it is impossible to scrap the bill, hence the demand is to exempt the North East from its purview, or else, the BJP will have to pack-up from the region, because the citizens from here will need self-protection.