Col NN Bhatia (Retd)
Preamble declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. The objectives stated by the Preamble are to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promote fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation.
The Citizen’s Amendment Bill (CAB) embryo delivered CAA this week passed by granting citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who faced persecution in their countries along with turmoil in the strategic, underdeveloped Northeast region of the country feeling alienated from the heartland for mishandling and diluting our secular fabric as enshrined in the constitution. The passing of the Act provoked widespread violent protests across several parts of India especially the Northeast where Assam Rifles and Army were requisitioned in Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Morigaon Naogaon, Sonitpur and Tinsukia in Assam and Agartala in Tripura and Shillong in Meghalaya were very tense and curfew has been imposed with shutting down of the social media intermittently and troops have been deployed for the maintenance of law and order, peace and tranquility. Road, rail and air means of communication have been adversely affected crippling day to day life.
What is CAB?
The CAB seeks to amend the definition of illegal Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Buddhist and Christian immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have lived in India without documentation for 6 years will be granted fast-track Indian citizenship against 12 years of residency that had been the standard eligibility requirement for naturalisation in the past.
What is Assam Accord & why Assam/ Northeast in general unhappy with CAB?
There was unusual rise in voters for the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha by poll in 1979, suspected rightly due to influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. It led to a massive and violent agitation in which 885 people were killed over six years. The stir ended after the Centre signed the Assam Accord in 1985. The accord put the date of detection and deportation of foreigners as March 25 1971 which for other states was 1951. CAA now has a new cut-off date of 2014 violating the accord. The movement is getting volatile in the entire Northeast (NE) region with spontaneous participation of students in various sensitive, strategic, economically poor tribal states. Protesters have destroyed public properties. In Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Naogaon, Tripura and Meghalaya are in a standstill while BJP led CM Sarbanand Sonowal has not been able to convince people of hidden Hindutya vote bank agenda against secularism and equality enshrined in the constitution. The specific concern in the NE states is the preservation of indigeneity. Sea of protestors in anguish assembled in the streets of every big and small town clashing with police against the draconian CAA that spread to other NE states; many ruled by the BJP or its coalitions. Around dozen police officials have been hurriedly transferred in Assam over CAA created unrest while the Army has issued advisory in the NE region against spreading of disinformation and fake news. Police firing tear gas shells to disperse violent mob CAB protests in Tripura Tripura though predominantly is Hindu tribal state, Hindu Bengali migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan and Bangladesh has been so rampart that the indigenous tribal population as on date has been reduced to 30 per cent today. Agriculture is primary sector of the economy of Tripura. More than 75% of the state's total workforce is dependent on agriculture for their subsistence. More illegal immigrants getting citizenship will adversely affect land holding and dilute tribal social and cultural fabric. The local tribes feel that all jobs in Tripura have not been taken by the Muslim Bengalis, but by the Hindu Bengalis who have become part of the administration. We have lost the character of Tripura. Our language is no longer recognised. There are no jobs. We are living in the jungles. There are no benefits. Several MLAs, bureaucrats, ministers and people holding constitutional posts are from Bangladesh. Most chief ministers have been outsiders and the only tribal Dasarath Deb is already in his late seventies.
What is National Registry of Citizens (NRC)?
The NRC was a promise made in the Assam Accord to identify and deport foreigners, evidently denying citizenship to Hindus and local tribes. The protesters say CAA will make NRC redundant and bestow citizenship on illegal immigrants which is denied by the Hindutya elements of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) in which Asom Gana Parishad is an ally of the BJP led with 14 assembly seats. Much to the discomfort of the local Assamese population, it is felt that large influx of Bangladeshi Muslims settled in Assam under the leadership of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal formed political party the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) which also won 14 state assembly seats and the CAA encouraging migration of non-Muslims in the NE will increase population, eat up meager resources, upset culture, social and religious equilibrium and encourage unemployment and crime. Assam rightly fears implementation of CAA as except in Bengalis dominated Barak Valley around Silchar, people in other parts fear CAB will lead to hordes of Hindus from Bangladesh swamping indigenous communities, burdening resources and threatening their language, culture, tradition, economy and giving rise to crimes.
Assam is witnessing one of the most violent protests by the people in its history with three railway stations, post office, bank, bus terminus and many other public properties being set ablaze or totally damaged. At least three people have been killed during protests. The Digboi Refinery in Assam has been closed and the Guwahati unit is operating at minimal production while Oil India Ltd (OIL) has been forced to shut LPG production and its crude oil production has dropped considerably and prolonged protests would lead to fuel/energy crises and inflation. Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has seen up to 25 per cent drop in production, and gas supplies snapped, leading to shutting down of Assam gas cracker project. Many passengers have got struck at Guwahati airport and numerous other railway stations.
The demand for ILP has been growing in Meghalaya since the Centre announced it for Manipur during the debate on the CAB in the Parliament. There were wide protest in front of Raj Bhawan and many locals were injured in clashes with police.. The Meghalaya cabinet had approved the amendment Meghalaya Residents, Safety and Security Act, 2016, which seeks mandatory registration of outsiders for entering the state after the NRC in Assam.
Protests in the other parts of the country
In West Bengal agitators resorted to violence and arson at railway stations and thoroughfares across the state, seeking immediate revocation of the law. People in the minority-dominated districts of rural Howrah, Murshidabad, Birbhum, parts of Burdwan and 24 Pargana in North Bengal and rural Howrah hit the streets raising slogans against the Modi government and attacked local BJP workers and leaders, prompting the saffron camp to allege that the attacks were masterminded by the ruling TMC. In border district Murshidabad protesters set fire to part of the Beldanga Railway Station and thrashed RPF personnel. Violent agitations set 15 buses on fire and torched portions of a railway station complex and blocked traffic on NH2 (Kolkata-Delhi NH6 (Kolkata-Mumbai) and NH2 (Kolkata-Delhi) NH 34 (North-South Bengal).
A large number of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind(JUH) protesters, at Jantar Mantar on 13 Dec 2019 described CAA as ‘anti constitutional’ and divisive, and demanded its immediate withdrawal and carried placards with slogans like ‘Save-Constitution, Withdraw CAB’, ‘Division on basis of religion unacceptable’ and ‘CAB nahin Rozgar Chahiye’. Many Jamia Millia Islamia University students held a protest against the draconian law at the university 50 students were detained following the clash, after the protestors were stopped at the varsity gate while the Congress party organised protests in Seelampur area of East Delhi. There have been protests in Goa and Trivandrum and other parts of the country too.
National and International Repercussions
Both Mizoram and Nagaland in the NE had gone through violent insurgencies seeking independence. The CAB saw protests in 3M states- Mizoram, Manipur and Meghalaya in January 2019 but epic centre of the protests shifted to Assam and Tripura on its becoming CAA. Manipur has a long history of armed insurgency and violence as Nagas demand Nagalim or a greater Nagaland which incorporates Naga-majority hill districts of Manipur as well as parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Burma as parts of Nagaland and CAA can fuel such demands further. In Meghalaya the tension between the locals and Punjabi communities stems from a long-standing demand from sections of the Khasi society to evict "illegal settlers" from the area and CAA can take an ugly turn. Arunachal Pradesh though peaceful has long disputed border with hostile China that should keep worrying our political masters.
Many opposition parties are seeking redressal of their grievances from the Supreme Court so that secular values enshrined in our constitution are not diluted and are sure that Supreme Court will struck CAA down. The centre and all state governments have to decide either no illegal migrant is granted Indian citizenship or it should be opened to all communities and countries on humanitarian issues keeping political, demographic, security, cultural, social and economic integrity of the country as the prime issues. The NE states are as much part of India as Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, UP or Kerala or for that matter any other state of the Union.
Let us hope that though our constitution’s preamble written by our forefathers may have been forgotten by the present crop of politicians, but they are not lost and Supreme Court will roll back CAA.
[Note Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editor or the publisher of the web site and parent organisation]
In case you come across any suspicious activity, any suspicious movement or have any information to tell to the Anti-Terror Squad, please take a note of the new ALL INDIA TOLL-FREE Terror Help-line '1090'. Your city's Police or Anti-Terror squad will take action as quickly as possible. Remember that this single number 1090 is valid all over india. This is a toll free number and can be dialled from mobile phones also. Moreover, the identity of the caller will be kept a secret.
Please try to make aware each and every citizen of india about this facility.