Point and counterpoint

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a right wing agenda to grant citizenship to Hindus living as refugees in India. These Hindus are presumed to have come to India from Muslim majority states of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh where they are ostensibly persecuted. They are assumed to have faced persecution merely because they are Hindus. Bangladesh has denied persecuting Hindus. At least Sheikh Hasina the present Prime Minister of Bangladesh has said so in no uncertain terms. In Pakistan, Hindus and Christians face persecution; so too in Taliban dominated Afghanistan. The fear of the tribal majority states of North East India is that the Hindus granted citizenship might be settled in their states and upset the demographic balance. Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura already bear a huge burden of illegal migration. Tripura is the classic example of how a tribal state has been reduced to a status where the tribes are now a mere 30% of the population and live on the fringes of development with little or no access to education, even as all institutions of governance are dominated by the Bengali speaking population.

The revocation of Article 370 which gives special status to the people of Jammu and Kashmir last year has sent tremors that special statuses enjoyed by the tribal majority North Eastern states like Nagaland and its special status under 371(a) might be revoked. The latest notification issued by the Union Home Ministry relaxing the laws for buying land in Kashmir and allowing non-Kashmiris the right to own land there has created further apprehensions that such land laws might also be diluted in these states. Up until now, non-tribals cannot own land in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and in the hills of Manipur. This has been a grievance for the non-tribals who are permanent residents of the states and have lived there for generations. This simmering discontent has found resonance with the BJP which overtly stands for Hindu nationalism and believes every part of India should be home to every Indian. The presence of disciples of the RSS in the North East who have been working silently including amongst tribals adopting the indigenous faith like in Meghalaya has only accentuated the fears that a Ghar Wapasi type of movement could also be unleashed here.

All these undercurrents are what have provoked certain pressure groups in Meghalaya to go on a postering campaign with provocative language before the Puja celebrations. But that was a reaction to non-tribal organizations from outside Meghalaya interfering in the internal affairs of the state. This attempt to create communal disharmony in Meghalaya by forces from outside the state must be dealt with a strong hand. If the permanent non-tribals of Meghalaya face discrimination of any kind let then take up such issues with the State Government before involving the Union Home Ministry and other ministries in Delhi.

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