RANJU DODUM | 11 JANUARY, 2019
N-E Agitates Over Citizenship Bill, Black Day on Jan 12
ITANAGAR: Two separate press briefings by two parties on the opposite spectrum of the political landscape today produced some rather different reactions on the same issue.
As the attention of the Northeast continues to be focussed on the Centre’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that seeks to reduce the number of years of residency in India required for immigrants (legal or otherwise) from religious minority groups of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis, and Sikhs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to six years, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) today called a press conference to once again voice its opposition to the proposal.
Speaking to reporters here, the APCC president, Takam Sanjoy, said that the Bill is “biased, discriminatory and communal” and “against the Constitution”.
The former Lok Sabha MP also said that the Bill should not have been tabled in Parliament.
The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday despite massive opposition from political parties and a number of civil society and students’ organisations from the Northeast who fear that the region, which many here feel is already feeling the pressure of illegal immigration from Bangladesh that has left some indigenous communities minorities in their own states, will leave them even more vulnerable.
The Bill was, however, not tabled during the recently concluded Rajya Sabha sitting.
Today, Sanjoy said the “Bill, passed and brought by the BJP is totally unconstitutional, discriminatory, communal, and it is against the ethics, essence of the Constitution of India”.
He also said that the current government is in disarray and sarcastically added that it is good to have a government like this ‘because it keeps making mistakes and this Bill is one of those mistakes’.
The state Congress president said that in a state like Arunachal Pradesh where some indigenous communities number in the few thousands, the migration of even 2,000 people will have an effect on the demography of the state.
Most parts of the Northeast are constitutionally protected as they are either under the jurisdiction of the Sixth Schedule or the Eastern Bengal Frontier Regulation.
While the state Congress president was, understandably, vocal in his opposition of the Bill, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma was more restrained.
Sangma is currently in the Arunachal Pradesh capital brainstorming with leaders of the state unit of his party- National People’s Party (NPP) -for the upcoming elections.
Discussing the party’s manifesto and its plans to contest the 24 Lok Sabha seats from the region (excluding one from Sikkim), Sangma did not mention the Bill in his opening remarks to the press at a city hotel here.
The NPP-led Meghalaya government, where the BJP is a coalition partner, had earlier passed a resolution opposing the Bill.
Today he said that the party has already spoken extensively against the Bill and tried to downplay the development, saying that it had not been passed.
He also said that the party will continue to be in alliance with the BJP, albeit it will not have any seat-sharing agreement, as of now but will decide on the future course of action if the Bill is passed.
Meanwhile, the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), the umbrella organisation of various students’ bodies of the region, will observe a ‘Black Day’ on January 12 in opposition to the proposed amendment and in the aftermath of its 11-hour Northeast bandh of January 8 when five student activists in Tripura were shot at by police personnel.