Why The People Of Assam Oppose The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019

Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 

The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 is legislation which will amend the Citizenship Act of 1955. It proposes granting Indian citizenship to the persecuted minorities, such as Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis fleeing Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The legislation seeks to make it easier for non-Muslim refugees and illegal immigrants from the 3 Islamic majority nations, to gain Indian citizenship. It applies to groups who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014. A large section in the North-East is opposing the bill.

Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalisation is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years. The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years, as a specific condition, for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the three countries above.

What Is The CAB? Why Is The Government Changing The CAB 1955?

This was a political promise made by BJP before the 2014 elections to grant citizenship to the refugees. These are stateless people who were persecuted in these three countries. In the northwestern part, it includes people in the states like Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and other part is in the NE. People who had come from erstwhile East Pakistan, and Bangladesh; Bengali Hindus who faced persecution after the creation of Bangladesh. These people are either on long term visas or just settled as illegal immigrants. The problematic part of the latest bill is that it is based on religion.

On Whether It Violates Article 14 Or Not

The media reports consistently portray this bill as one that will give citizenship to only non-muslims. They have gone by definition of minority, mainly non-muslim minority, in those three nations, but not included Muslim minorities like Ahmadis in Pakistan. Article 14 states that “all should be treated equally alike “. In India, we don’t have a refugee law. A procedure based on inputs of security agencies is used. I will not comment on whether it violates the constitution or not; it is the Supreme Court who will decide.

What Are The Political Aspects And Why Is The NE Opposing It?

It was not necessary to bring it in at this time. It makes us question the government;  was the NRC experiment a failure? NRC and CAB are related; NRC is the process of excluding citizens on the basis of their legacy data. The cut-off date for CAB is December 31, 2014.

Let’s take an example:

A Bangladeshi Hindu family, who had fled Bangladesh and couldn’t prove that they had fled before March 25, 1971. They now get a chance to apply for citizenship.

This issue is a crucial and emotional issue as West Bengal goes to polls in 2021. It has created fear among the people of Assam, Tripura etc. as people settling down post-partition, because of violence in East-Pakistan, in Tripura, outnumbered the indigenous community. Also, the KOKBOROK of a local language is gone now. Did you Know? The parents of the incumbent CM of Tripura, Shri Biplab Deb, had migrated to India as refugees in 1967?

The communities in the North-east vary between thousand and lakhs. Some tribals have ethnic fears. It is a very explosive issue. It needs to be handled with great care in the NE.

What Are The Rights of Indigenous People? Are We Going To See Special Provisions?

There is a political incentive in this whole issue, and perhaps a particular vote bank is being catered to.

Assam is now witnessing massive protests over NRC and CAB, since the Assam movement in the 1980s, when even I was not born. That was the peak of the Assam movement. We never saw mass mobilisation like that since 1982 — disturbances across Brahmaputra valley of Assam, from Dibrugarh to Bongaigaon. The army sent to many places in Tripura and Assam to tackle troubles.

 Why Is Assam Angry?

Anti-CAB protest in Assam
Anti-CAB protest in Assam.

Assam has the most mixed population, divided into linguistic, ethnic and religious lines. This population is split among Bengali speakers, Assamese speakers and Bodos (Tribals). Then we have a religious split 61% Hindus and 34% Muslims. The problem in Assam arises as a fundamental contradiction between the RSS-BJP construct of the foreigner’s issue, and the Assam movement construct of the foreigner’s point.

The Assam movement was against Bengalis who came from East-Pakistan. They said that they distort our ethnicity, culture and power. There was no distinction between Hindus and Muslims infiltrators. For Assamese people, the concern is about what is “indigeneous” and “non-indigeneous”. Once the government allows this bill, the Assamese fear that foreigners will now move to the Brahmaputra valley because the tribal areas of Assam and other NE states are protected by ILP and 6th schedule. It takes their political power in the region, and this is finally, the complete negation of what they have said during the Assam movement.

In my opinion, the main motive of the BJP government is to cater votes from Bengali Hindus in both West Bengal and Assam. It will put the entire North- East under restrictions and protections similar to that of Jammu & Kashmir. The 5 Cr. Population of NE will now be in quarantine, of which 3.6 Cr. is in Assam.

Protest Against CAB 2019

Having spent the one and a half year here, I have tasted the culture of Assam. I was not born here, but now, I have experienced the true essence of Assam. I can’t imagine; how can you amend the law only by sitting there in Delhi without knowing the right ground report?

The government should ask the other states, which are in a better situation, to handle the illegal immigrants. They should not indulge in any violence against the Assamese, as they are the social capital, and are fighting democratically for their rights. The problem must be solved through dialogue as soon as possible.

Another aspect is that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord should have been implemented first, then we should have accepted the CAB.

Clause 6 of the accord talks about providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people. It reads: ‘Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.’

 “Joi Aai Axom(Glory to the Mother Assam)”

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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