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CAB Concerns in Northeast – Has the Govt Taken Due Diligence to Address them?

concerns over CAB

As the amendment to the Citizenship Act got a cheer across the country, barring few places in the Northeast region where the misinformation seems to have played the role in stoking fear among the people, the opposition was left with no option but to narrate only those stories of protest that too with half-truths. In our earlier article Busting the Myths Around Citizenship Amendment Bill we have busted this claim of “Northeast India stands to suffer due to an influx of non-local refugees” explaining how the sixth schedule and the Inner Line Permit system are preventing any such possibilities. Further, PM Modi also assured once again to the people of Northeast and especially Assamese that their identity will be protected. We also shed light on the fact that how the prominent protesting groups in Tripura have relented after the discussion with the Chief Minister.

Due Diligence in Every Step

Since the Northeast regions, especially many parts of Assam are seeing the agitation over CAB, it is imperative to look whether the government has taken the due diligence of their sentiments while drafting the bill and after passing it in Parliament.

Before the Bill Passed

Home Minister Amit Shah did carry a series of consultations with the stakeholders of Northeast states. A report from September 9, 2019 in Hindustan Times reflects how the government patiently heard all the concerns and gave an assurance to people of Northeast. HM Amit Shah, in front of Chief Ministers of Northeastern states had said,

“It is good Sangmaji publicly voiced the worries of states of the region in relation to CAB. There is worry about what will happen to Article 371 and provisions like inner line permit once CAB is enacted. I want to clarify there’s no plan to tamper with Article 371. Even if CAB is enacted, it won’t affect provisions of Article 371, the Centre would take care of it. Nothing would also happen to the existing laws protecting your customary laws and culture.”

A report in The Statesman on November 30, 2019, noted, “Union Home Minister Amit Shah held discussions over the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) with Chief Ministers of Northeast states and members of the civil society groups.”

A report from The Asian Age on October 6, 2019, notes that the Mizoram Chief Minister was satisfied with his interaction with the Home Minister on the issue as it reported him saying, “As far as the Citizenship Amendment Bill is concerned, the Home Minister has assured that a new clause (related to the inner line permit regime in Mizoram) will be incorporated in the draft bill. We will work this out with the Home Ministry.”

While Tabling the Bill

While speaking in the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah once again elaborated on how the Northeast states have been given safeguard against the influx of refugee settlements in their land. He said,

“In this Bill, we’re protecting the social and linguistic uniqueness of the North East people. Nagaland and Mizoram are protected by Inner Line Permit and it will continue to remain protected. Keeping in mind the feelings of Manipur, we’re including them into the Inner Line Permit as well. Meghalaya is protected by the Sixth Schedule.”

After the Bill Passed

The swiftness the government has shown for the disturbed areas of Northeast region seems to assure that the present phase of agitation will soon pass.

After the Chief Minister of Tripura, HM Amit Shah himself held the meetings with the stakeholders who have raised concern over the impact of the CAB. See the Home Minister in action.

Manipur has brought under inner line permit regime just two days after HM Amit Shah had given that assurance.

The Assam Question

The measures that have been explained above involving the inner line permit regime and the sixth schedule may largely address the fear of Northeast regions over CAB. Nevertheless, one may still ask, how the particular state in the region, Assam, can overcome its fears concerning CAB. An official document listing the myths and facts of the matter has dealt at length focusing Assam and answered some important queries.

First, CAB does not dilute ‘Assam Accord’ as the cut-off date for detention/deportation of illegal immigrants remain March 24, 1971 for the state.

Second, the fear that the Bengali speaking people will dominate the state is over-stretched. Most of the Hindu Bengali population is settled in Barak Valley of Assam where Bengali is the second state language. In Brahmaputra Valley have adapted themselves to the Assamese language and are settled in isolated pockets.

Third, since the CAB applicable to the whole country, Assamese need not feel that all the Bengali Hindus refugees will be inundated to the state.

The sixth schedule will take care of the tribal blocks of Assam as it does in the case of other states in the Northeast.