CAB unleashes fury in Assam

Of all the North Eastern states Assam seems most agitated by the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which seeks to accord citizenship to Hindus from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan etc., who are persecuted in these countries. Home Minister Amit Shah tried to break the unity of the region by saying that states in the North East that have the Inner Line Permit (ILP) and the Sixth Schedule will be out of the purview of the CAB. However, civil society groups, students’ bodies and pressure groups across the region are against this Bill because of its communal overtones. It violates Article 14 of the Constitution which says, “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” CAB gives protection only to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists but not Muslims. Hence it discriminates against Muslims which violates the Indian Constitution which underlines that India is a secular country even though the word ‘secular’ was added much later. Other than Hindus, who in Bangladesh alone number 17 million (2015 census), other religious groups in the above Muslim countries are very few. India’s North East is already reeling under influx, particularly the state of Assam which had a violent movement against illegal migrants between 1979-1985. After the Assam Accord was signed by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) with the then Congress Government led by Rajiv Gandhi it was agreed that 1971 should be the cut-off year to accord citizenship to people who had crossed over to Assam from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

The BJP-led NDA has gone back on that Accord and said that 2014 would now be the cut-off year. Clearly this is vote bank politics and is not lost on the people of Assam and the North East. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam left out 19 lakh citizens from the list. It is said that names of many indigenous Assamese were also excluded because of technical reasons. But the point is that Assam is today reeling from this shocking aftermath of the NRC. Many believe that those whose names were left out must have been interlopers. But what many did not expect is that there would be so many Hindus amongst the 19 lakh citizens. It was assumed that most of the illegal migrants would be Muslims. It was this realisation that made the Government of Assam discredit the NRC and dump it. The BJP expects the CAB to achieve what the NRC could not, and how.

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