Citizenship Amendment Bill that seeks to provide citizenship to non-muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan has become a burning issue in India. There is a possibility that this Bill would likely bring unpleasant and complex demographic changes, especially in the northeastern part of the country. Though the Nagaland State Assembly has rejected the Bill, questions still remain if still the state will face its repercussions that threaten the social as well as cultural existence of the Nagas.
Citizenship Amendment Bill- An insight
The issue of illegal immigrants is of utmost concern in almost every region of the world. Immigration basically refers to individuals living permanently in a foreign country which may be legal or illegal. In India, according to citizenship Act 1955, an illegal immigrant is one, who enters India without a valid passport or forged documents or who stays beyond the visa permit. The issue of illegal immigration has always been a contentious and thorny area of concern for most of the North Eastern states in India. Being surrounded by large swathes of international boundary, the north eastern region has witnessed constant upheaval and conflict on this matter. The allegation of politics of vote bank on the one hand and the aspiration of preserving ethnic identity on the other have often led to ugly confrontations in the region, post Independent India. While acknowledging the various push and pull factors, the underlying tension has inevitably simmered on throughout and this fault line has come to haunt the region once again.
The recent bill passed by the government of India, called the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB) 2016 on January 2018, has created a humongous furore among the people of north east region. This present bill amends the citizenship Act, 1955. This act will allow illegal immigrants, who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have entered India before December 31, 2014, eligible for Indian Citizenship. The tremors of this act are being felt throughout the length and breadth of the region with people from different quarters vehemently opposing this act. Nagaland already reeling with massive challenges in regard to illegal immigration, this act has come as a colossal blow. One of the prime dangers this act poses is turning the local populace foreigners in their own homeland. In spite of the assurance by the government of the day, that Nagaland state is protected against the citizenship amendment Bill 2016, under “The provisions of Article 371(A) and the Inner Line Permit as per Bengal Frontier Regulation (BEFR) of 1873, affirmed under clause 16 0f 16 point Agreement”, it goes without saying that increase in the number of immigrants in other North Eastern states will negatively impact Nagaland either directly or indirectly. The ramifications that this act will play out in due course of time are real and tangible. The fear is legitimate. The people are under no illusion or neither ignorant about the nefarious agendas that has been set into motion in order to wreak havoc and chaos among the peace loving people of north eastern region. No euphemism or Machiavellian politics can appease the strong sentiments echoed by the people against this anti-people act enacted by powers that be. We cannot afford to allow the politics of consolidation of certain interest groups at the cost of destroying and annihilating our existence and survival. The state government of Nagaland, with the public outcry against CAB on one hand and unwilling to antagonize its political masters in South Block found itself trapped in a catch-22 situation. After dilly dallying, it finally took the much awaited move in publicly and univocally rejecting the CAB. With all its omission and commission, the political leaders in the state have timely displayed political acumen in opposing this bill. It needs to be seen what amendments the government will make for allowing our lone Lok Sabha MP (Member of Parliament) to vote for the passing of this bill in the Lower House.
Time has come, where we Nagas need to revisit our idea of war. The concept of war is not necessarily confined to physical warfare. It encompasses far beyond this singular comprehension. We will be defeated in a thousand battles, if we fail to recognize this new reality. We have already proven ourselves in physical prowess, when it comes to physical combat. History stands to attest to this particular fact. But we need to understand that with the evolvement of human society, the rules of engagement have become more subtle and covert. The rule of the game has elevated to a different plane. Today, wars are waged on an unconventional scale and not much on the traditional understanding of war using military power and might. As we come to grip to this existing reality, it requires of us to be open and willing to train ourselves to adapt to these new ways of engagement. Our adversaries have already sounded the battle cry from the ramparts and have launched a vociferous, ruthless and merciless campaign from all directions to annihilate our way of life, subjugate us to their hegemony, and marginalize us in our own lands. It demands of us to be able to engage and thwart the strategies of the opponent. As our foes resort to the politics of number to drown us, politics of voices alien to our culture, politics of ideologies completely antithesis to our philosophy of life, we cannot afford and we should not remain mute spectators in this raging battle. Whether we want it or not, we are already in the heat of the battle. Are we like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome was burning. How we respond today will determine what sort of legacy we will leave for the generations to come. Our tradition of oral storytelling is a much cherished asset of our Naga family. Will the generations to come tomorrow narrate with pride in their eyes, how Nagas of old stood up to defend and protect our way of life or will it be otherwise. Let us not be silenced by their story.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Tatongkala Pongen, Aniruddha, Meren and Kvulo Lorin.
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