Home » Hypocrisy on Citizenship among North-Eastern Tribes and Meitei Stance on CAA

Hypocrisy on Citizenship among North-Eastern Tribes and Meitei Stance on CAA

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Hypocrisy on Citizenship among North-Eastern Tribes and Meitei Stance on CAA

Union Minister Shantanu Thakur’s announcement of the imminent nationwide implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) within a week has reignited concerns and apprehensions. The controversy surrounding the CAA, particularly its exclusion of Muslims and Christians from the list of eligible religious communities, has sparked debates on its compatibility with the secular principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Another concern was the exclusion of Myanmar from the list of eligible countries. In Manipur and other north-eastern states, the worries about the CAA stem from its potential impact on indigenous communities and the distinct demographic and cultural landscape of the region. Numerous media outlets and organizations in Imphal, often labeled as Meitei media now, have stood against the implementation of the CAA. However, it is noteworthy that Meiteis in Bangladesh and the Indo-Bangladesh border areas have faced systemic discrimination and exclusion by the majority communities living there.
In Bangladesh, Meiteis, primarily identified as Hindus, encounter systemic discrimination across various aspects of life. Reports suggest that Meiteis have limited influence in local governance and do not adequately benefit from government development initiatives. This inferior treatment is compounded by challenges such as restricted access to services, neglect of their distinct needs, threats of landlessness, and potential land grabbing. Incidents of violence against the Meiteis, including property theft or destruction, have been reported, with a prevailing sense of impunity for such crimes, further marginalizing this community. Discrimination against Meitei women is particularly noteworthy, contributing to gender inequality, malnourishment, and limited access to essential services. These multifaceted challenges underscore the urgency of addressing the inferior treatment faced by the Meiteis in Bangladesh.
Similarly, Meiteis living in the Indo-Bangladesh border areas also face systemic discrimination from the majority communities living there. For instance, the Meiteis in Bholaganj village along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya have suffered neglect and step-motherly treatment by the Meghalaya government. The lack of formal recognition deprives them of government scheme benefits, prompting appeals for acknowledgment. In Tripura’s Dharmanagar, the transformation from a predominantly Manipuri-populated area to one where Manipuris are becoming a minority community reveals the challenges faced by the Meeteis and Bishnupriya Manipuris. The historical influx of Bengalis from Bangladesh, coupled with a changing administration and diminished job opportunities for Manipuris, led to a significant demographic shift. With around 80 percent of the current population being Bengali, residents are rightly concerned and have appealed to the Manipur government to address this evolving situation.
Despite the challenging conditions in which Meiteis live outside Manipur, the Meitei population has not supported the CAA or endorsed settling these suffering Meiteis from these places on the lands of other communities in Manipur, even if the move could potentially benefit the Meitei community demographically and electorally. Although the CAA might be advantageous for the Meiteis, broader concerns about the potential impact on other communities have influenced the community’s stance against its implementation. However, the ongoing conflict has compelled a revaluation of this standpoint.
In Mizoram and among the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur, there is a favorable stance towards Bangladeshi and Burmese citizens who are considered their kith and kin seeking refuge in India, yet there is resistance to implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). An evident instance of inconsistency arises in Mizoram, where, despite extending a warm welcome to Chin and Kuki-Chin refugees escaping persecution in Myanmar and Bangladesh, the treatment of the Chakmas and other local minorities reveals a clear double standard. Mizoram’s defiance of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) directive, emphasizing hospitality to specific refugees, highlights their commitment to humanitarian principles. However, the Chakmas, a Buddhist minority ethnic group, experience discrimination despite their historical presence. Chakmas have a notable presence in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, and they are also beneficiaries of the CAA. Now, both the Kuki chiefs of Manipur and NSCN IM have raised objections to the Centre’s decision on the removal of the Free Movement Regime, stating that their communities live on both sides of the border.
The positions upheld by many of these communities appear hypocritical and rooted in narrow identity politics. They have no issue bringing their kith and kin and settling them in any land they could get, but when others do the same, they raise objections. It seems it is only the Meiteis who have been maintaining that they would not allow anyone to settle illegally in this country, particularly in land that could cause territorial conflict between communities. However, such a stance from the Meiteis appears ironic in the face of the hypocrisy of the other tribes in the region. So, one can say that time has come for the Meiteis to change their stand on CAA.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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