The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) saw protests in Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Manipur this January, but the protests shifted to Assam when Parliament took it up again. ET explains why it has rekindled the anti-foreigner sentiment of the 1980s.
Why is there a bitter protest in Assam?
Except in Bengali speakers’ dominated Barak valley, people in other parts fear CAB will lead to lakhs of Hindus from Bangladesh swamping indigenous communities, burdening resources and threatening their language, culture, and tradition. CAB has a 2014 cut-off date but protesters say Assam bore the brunt of immigrants from 1951 to 1971, while other states did not, and it is unfair to impose more on the state. Protesters say they do not trust the Centre and CAB will undo the Assam Accord.
What is the Assam Accord?
People noticed an unusual rise in voters for the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha by-poll in 1979 and suspected it was due to the 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. For other states, it was 1951. CAB now has a new cut-off date of 2014. Protesters say it, hence, violates the accord.
What is NRC?
The National Registry of Citizens was a promise made in the Assam Accord to identify and deport foreigners. By the time it was published, it became evident that the majority of those denied citizenship were Hindus or indigenous tribes. Protesters say CAB will make NRC redundant and bestow citizenship on illegal immigrants. However, the Asom Gana Parishad says Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will insulate Assam from CAB’s adverse impact.
What is Clause 6 of the Assam Accord?
Clause 6 of Assam accord relates to constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
What is Inner Line Permit?
The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is a system introduced for border areas by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. People outside such declared areas can visit the places only if they have a permit. They cannot settle in such areas even with ILP. The system is now being used to protect certain areas from the purview of CAB. Places notified for protecting tribes under Sixth Schedule Areas of the Constitution too have been placed outside CAB’s purview. ILP is applicable to most areas of other NE states. In Assam, Karbi Anglong, Dima Haso, and Bodoland are protected under the Sixth Schedule. They, however, make only seven out of 33 Assam districts.
Why has the epicenter of protest against CAB shifted to Assam?
Home minister Amit Shah had reached out to political parties, organizations and NE CMs while redrafting CAB. The assurance that CAB will not hit ILP and Schedule VI areas worked. There is ILP in Nagaland (with the inclusion of Dimapur this week), Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Mizoram. Meghalaya is on the verge of getting ILP.
How strong is the protest in Assam?
The movement is getting bigger in Assam with the spontaneous participation of students. Protesters have destroyed public properties. Guwahati, Dibrugarh, and Naogaon are in a standstill. Chief Minister Sarbanand Sonowal has tried to reassure people by saying Assam was going through one of the prolonged phases of peace and development.
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