Northeast erupts in protests again after Shah's resolve

Amit Shah (PTI Photo)

Parts of Northeast erupted in fresh protest against Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) on Thursday, two days after home minister Amit Shah announced in Kolkata that it would be re-tabled in the Parliament soon.

Organisations opposed to the bill staged protests in Dimapur in Nagaland, Shillong in Meghalya, Manipur capital Imphal and in Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), while those in Assam and Mizoram resolved to launch a fresh agitation to protest the Centre's move.

The bill, which Shah is planning to re-introduce in the Parliament session in November seeks to allow "persecuted" minorities such as Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs, who had migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014 to apply for Indian citizenship after a stay of six years. Ethnic communities in the Northeast, however, fear that the bill would make large number of "illegal migrants" Indian citizens and threaten their ethnic identity by reducing them into minorities. 

Shah on Sepetember 9 assured the chief ministers of eight states in the Northeast here that the bill would be passed without touching the existing protection mechanism such as Article 371, Inner Line Permit (Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh) and the Sixth Schedule areas in region. But chief ministers of Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya requested Shah to keep the Northeast out of the bill's ambit. 

Nagaland: Protesters under the banner, Nagaland Against CAB shouted slogans in the commercial town Dimapur and warned that the Christian majority state would erupt in an "uprising" if the bill is passed by Narendra Modi government. "Dimapur will become a dumping ground for the illegal migrants as ILP is not applicable in the town. People of Nagaland are already under fear that those left out of the NRC will enter Dimpur and settle here," a leader of the protersters said.

Manipur: Large number of women, students and youths lined up on both sides of the all-women market at Imphal on Thursday holding placard that called for withdrawal of the CAB. BJP-led government in the state said it urged Shah to make sure that CAB did not affect the ethnic communities in Manipur but that did not pacify the protesters. The protesters under the banner Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill threatened to step up protests against the bill. 

Arunachal Pradesh: The frontier state witnessed protests at different places with many accusing the BJP-led government of failing to protect identity and culture of the ethnic communities in the region.

Assam: The influential All Assam Students' Union (AASU) said CAB would nullify Assam Accord of 1985 which the Centre had signed with it. It agreed to detect, delete and deport illegal migrants with March 24, 1971 as the cut-off, irrespective of religion. "AASU will never accept violation of the Assam Accord and will go to any extent to stop any move to nullify it. We want a correct NRC and deportation of all illegal migrants to Bangladesh," AASU said in a statement. Several other organisations are also planning a joint agitation against CAB soon.

Mizoram: The strong NGO Co-Ordination Committee has announced protest march against CAB on Saturday, when Shah is slated to visit the state. The agitators will wear pawndum, a shawl traditionally worn during funerals to express their worry against the bill. Student groups in Meghalaya has stepped up demand to have ILP system in the state. 

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