The north-east of India is voting to decide whether 4 million undocumented people should continue living in India
- The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 is one of the primary issues in the north east states that are going to vote today.
- While the BJP is playing the development card, Congress is stressing how they can stop the bill from becoming a reality.
- It’s an obstacle for BJP since they even reiterate wanting to enact the bill in their election manifesto.
As the first phase of India’s general election begins, the north east states of India will be voting against the backdrop of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 and the ongoing protests in Assam.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) first introduced this bill in the lower house of parliament — the Lok Sabha — during the winter session, but it is still pending approval from the upper house, the Rajya Sabha. Despite severe opposition, in its election manifesto, the BJP reiterated its commitment towards the bill saying that it is “for the protection of individuals of religious minority communities from neighbouring countries escaping persecution.”
There are two facets to why some people have an issue with the new amendment. First off, Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Bhuddists and Parsis from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan will be able to apply for citizenship provided they’ve been in India for seven years. In contrast, the currently provision requires 12 years of residence in India in order to eligible for citizenship.
Secondly, it’s in contradiction to the Assam Accord. The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 wants to grant nationality to non-Muslims who have come into India upto December 31, 2014. But, the Assam Accord dictates that all immigrants to have entered the country illegally after 1971 have to be deported — irrespective of religion.
The fear is that in relaxing the norms around citizenship, as many as 20 million Hindus will migrate from Bangladesh to India and wipe out the local communities.
Not to mention that the new amendment completely ignores Muslims. Nearly 4 million are, more or less, illegal immigrants since the final draft list of the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) was released to determine the citizenship of nearly 15 million migrants in north east India.
India’s current prime minister and a member of the BJP has repeatedly asserted that illegal Muslim immigrants will be deported. Some feel that Bangladesh is unlikely to accept such a request, and thus, this may end up being another Rohingya where a large amount of people will be left stateless.
Congress has played that card to their advantage backing the voters and assuring them that the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 is a serious threat to their existence.
The BJP has cautiously stated that they will “not take any step that hurts the interests of Assamese and other indigenous communities” and has switched gears to focus on development in the north east states highlighting how the Modi government has been able to complete multiple infrastructure projects in the area.
Nonetheless, the continuous tensions have had a polarising effect in the north east states. On April 7, a Muslim man was heckled and abused for ‘selling beef’ and also made to eat pork, even though that goes against his religion.
Fourteen out of 25 north east’s parliamentary constituencies are going to go to the polls today and the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 is one of the major issues in these states.