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Citizenship Bill 2019

The Narendra Modi Government has pushed through the amended Citizenship Bill 2019 in the Lok Sabha. This Bill seeks to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The question that bothers political observers is why religion should be the basis on which citizenship is granted to a person. How Minister Rajnath Singh while moving the motions for the Bill said Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from the above three countries will get Indian citizenship. The Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Roy has called the Bill “divisive” and “insidious” and said that it goes against the basic tenets of the Constitution.  The naked protest outside Parliament on Monday by members of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) from Assam which is led by Akhil Gogoi shows the desperation of people who see the looming threat of their living space being invaded by people from across the border. It goes without saying that the maximum migration will be from Bangladesh and that the seven North Eastern states would bear the brunt of this migration.  Clearly this is vote-bank politics which feeds on the Hindutva agenda of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from which the BJP draws its ideological moorings.

While most developed countries provide sanctuary to citizens who are oppressed in their own country or are afflicted by wars and brutality and they do so purely on humanitarian grounds, no country has granted citizenship to any group on the basis of their religious affiliations. The seven North Eastern states, particularly those inhabited by tribal minorities are naturally very agitated at passage of the Citizenship Bill, 2019 because at the back of their minds is the dreaded prospect of becoming minorities in their homelands in the long run. And these fears are not misplaced. The tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are resisting the Bill because they see a growing number of Chakmas entering the state and seeking citizenship. Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya and Assam have always looked at Tripura as a classic example of a state that is now overrun by people of Bengali origin and where the tribals are reduced to a pathetic minority of 30%. In 1901 Tripura’s population was 1.73 lakh, with tribals numbering  nearly 52.89 %.

It’s a different matter that history too had a role to play in the carving out of borders from hitherto borderless homelands, post 1947. Today those borders have hardened and people of one ethnic origin are citizens of two different nations. People usually migrate to safer zones with better economic prospects. And this migration has continued since the Partition in 1947.

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