It seems that no force will be strong enough to stand against the passing of the CAB, 2019. Union cabinet has made a clean passage for the Bill and it is certain that the Bill is passed in the Lok Sabha in the next few days. MANPAC among other opposition groups from the north East States have been nearly calm down by the Union Home Minister assuring insertion of a clause or exempting some of the areas which comes under the sixth schedule or tribal states.
What will be that shield for the state of Manipur that was reportedly assured by the Home Minister Amit Shah to the MANPAC team is a matter to wait and watch? But literally insertion of a clause to the Bill will be a painful joke.
It is also not sure on whether a bill like “The Manipur People’s (Protection) Bill, 2018 “, that is pending with the President of India will be able to stand against CAB is also yet to find out as the people still did not have a discourse in it.
As per the view of this newspaper The Manipur People’s (Protection) Bill, 2018 is not going to be a shield behind which Manipur can hide. It does not stop anyone who will visit Manipur with identity cards or such other documents to prove the person as bona fide citizen of India.
In this context, additional population from India’s neighbouring countries could take advantage of the Citizenship Bill to look for opportunities across India including Manipur.
The Bill will only empower the State authorities to register non-Manipur People visiting the State and issue pass accordingly to regulate their entry and exit.
A pass with a cost to discourage dumping of population may be considered. Nevertheless, identifying the bona fide citizen of India will remain a loophole as forgery and backdoor channels are common.
Passing of the Citizenship Bill means more people coming to Northeast India and acceptance of those already living there.
The Centre has failed to implement the Foreigners Act, 1946 and Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 to detect and deport a large number of illegal immigrants living in the country.
The Citizenship Bill will take a U-turn instead. It is a well known fact that demographic threat has been driving political movements in Northeast India including insurgency.
Both the Union and the State government’s position on the Citizenship Bill is an insult to the indigenous peoples’ movements in Northeast India.
It questions the sanctity and rationale of the 1985 Assam Accord and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). It makes a mockery of the demand for a permit system in Manipur as well.
Happy-go-lucky attitude of the government is a major setback for the state and the region as a whole.
What is unfortunate for the state of Manipur is that instead of opposing the controversial Bill, the government is referring to mere apprehension in the minds of the people about the State getting flooded with a large number of illegal immigrants and foreigners from neighbouring countries. In fact, the issue of illegal immigrants is a reality we have seen in Northeast India, not just an apprehension.
Moreover, official corruption and vote bank politics are rampant in the State itself. The Citizenship Bill will put more pressure on land and resources in Northeast India.
Even in states where land rights are restricted only to the native peoples, the extra population will add more burdens as far as economic activities and employment opportunities are concerned.
More candidates competing for jobs will cost the ethnic minorities.
The People’s Bill merely prohibits non-Manipur people acquiring of land in Manipur without the consent and sanction of the State government authorities. In October 2018, speaking at the India Today Conclave East 2018, Chief Minister Biren rightly said that it will not bar anybody from buying property or settling down in the State.
With President of India’s assent, the Bill will help the State government regulate (or facilitate) land ownership by non-Manipur people or Multinational Corporation. It clarifies that the People’s Bill is not a defensive shield against the Citizenship Bill.
In search of a mechanism to shield Manipur from the existing socio-political challenges, the Government of Manipur must add more teeth to the People’s Bill and stand firm against the Citizenship Bill.