Home Christians Citizenship Bill: Sleepwalking in the North-East – National Herald

Citizenship Bill: Sleepwalking in the North-East – National Herald

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The Citizenship Amendment Bill, (CAB) 2016, may get shelved as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not have adequate numbers in the Upper House to carry it through, but people in North Eastern states are asking why the regional parties chose to bed with the BJP in the first place.

The BJP never made any bones about wanting to pass the CAB. The Bill was proposed in the Lok Sabha in July 2016 and was finally passed by the House on January 8, 2019. According to the Bill, illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan would not be imprisoned or deported, but would be eligible for Indian citizenship. It also offers these refugees permanent citizenship after six years of residency in India instead of 11 years – as laid down in the Citizenship Act (1955). For the BJP, this is an electoral ploy to consolidate the Hindu vote bank because Christians, Parsis, Sikh, Buddhist etc. put together are a negligible number in the above-mentioned Muslim countries.

The opposition the Bill is facing in the North East is not difficult to understand. The amendment, people here apprehend, will fuel a fresh wave of migration from Bangladesh in these states. While persecuted Hindus in Afghanistan and Pakistan would choose to reside in the North Western parts of India, the 17 million Hindus from Bangladesh may well feel encouraged to settle in the North Eastern states for linguistic and cultural reasons.

There have been protests and scholars and academics have been busy explaining why the CAB should be opposed. Some groups from Assam staged a naked protest in front of Parliament in the January cold. Pressure groups across the region under the banner of the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) have rallied together to protest the Bill which is seen as a dangerous ploy to populate the North Eastern states with Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has the third largest Hindu population after India and Nepal. History is a cruel divider of nations and peoples. In 1905 Bengal was divided into East and West Bengal. East Bengal had a Muslim majority population while West Bengal was largely Hindu. The British peddled a lie that the Partition of Bengal would improve administrative efficiency. East Bengal was tagged to Assam to form the Eastern Bengal and Assam province. Dhaka became the capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Chittagong, Dhaka and Rajshahi Divisions (excluding Darjeeling) and Malda District were separated from Bengal and transferred to the new province. Hill Tripura came under Eastern Bengal and Assam province.

It triggered a violent reaction mainly from the Hindus against the separation of Bengal. Leaders of the Congress Party launched massive agitations to end the Partition which was termed as a Policy of Divide and Rule. On Partition Day – October 16, 1905, the people of Bengal observed a day of mourning. The Partition of Bengal resulted in a major political crisis and triggered agitations and boycott of British goods.

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