The Citizenship Amendment bill which has been recently passed by the Lok Sabha has sparked a series of revolts and protests both in Assam and the North East of India. These protests have also been seen in areas where we find a huge student population hailing from the North East.
Most people in mainland India are still ignorant about why these protests are happening. They still question as to what’s the big deal in letting a few people in our state? Or why is our state burning at this point of time? All these questions can be very well answered if these people would have known our state’s history and would have understood what all has been promised to us since decades.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill has not been sitting well with the Assamese people as it contradicts the very Assam Accord of 1985, which clearly states that illegal migrants heading in from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported. 1985 was that year when brave brothers and sisters of Assam came out and protested against the illegal migrants taking over Assamese language and culture. Around 855 students became martyrs on this battlefield at the Students’ Movement in 1985 and the people of Assam today find it disheartening to see our central government crushing the sacrifices that these bold and fierce people made for their state. The Citizenship Amendment Bill completely opposes the Assam Accord which brought peace to Assam back in 1985.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to allow illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to not be imprisoned or deported. It also appeals for the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be lessened from at least eleven to six years for such migrants. The bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants.
It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais, etc. The BJP’s coalition partner Assam Gana Parishad has threatened to cut ties with the party if the Bill is passed. It considers the Bill to work against the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people of the state.
NGOs such as the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and students’ organisation All Assam Students’ Union also have come forward opposing the bill. This bill has been termed as anti-Assam as it promises to grant and bring in more illegal migrants in the state of Assam irrespective of their religion.
It is not only our central government but even our own state government, that has failed us during this pivotal period. All Opposition parties, including the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front, have opposed the idea of granting citizenship to an individual on the basis of religion. It is also argued that the bill, if made into an Act, will nullify the updated National Registration of Citizenship (NRC) which has cost 4 years of hard work from thousands of government servants.
If we were to look at the general sentiments of Assamese students and what they feel about the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, we would come to a consensus that all generations of Assamese people currently residing in Assam and afar, barring all castes, religion and gender feel betrayed on the account of this insensitive Act.
It is a struggle that began in 1985, stayed dormant for some years on the account of false promises, and is again revived with the centre’s decision of passing this bill. On a positive note, it is indeed beautiful to see our nation of Assamese people standing strong against the war that has begun. We know that it shall be a long war, but we shall stand strong against all odds.
Joi Aai Axom!