By - Leichombam Kullajit
“You’re free to choose, but you’re not free from the consequences of your choice.” Well, this proverbial statement seems to have caught the attention of the Chief Minister, N Biren Singh, who stated that his State, Manipur, is ready for National Register Citizen of India (NRC) in the fourth North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) conclave held in Guwahati recently. Everyone in the state, we hope, including ours, appreciates his ‘bold’ announcement, but the fact of the matter is, his boss both as party president and central minister, Union Home Minister Amit Shah gave enough hint that Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) would indeed be brought/introduced in the parliament. So, here comes the quandary.
The question is – what are the difference between NRC and CAB and what is its significance for a small state, like Manpur in particular and Northeast as a whole? And why Manipur chief minister chose the NRC while rest of his counterparts of the Northeast states talked about CAB?
Since the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the centre has promised in its 2019 election manifesto that it would implement the NRC to weed out the ‘infiltrators’ from the country in a phased manner in other parts of the country, the choice of words for N Biren Singh doesn’t matter at all, even if he agrees or not. Nevertheless, it’s a win-win situation for him and party. The bigger question is about CAB. As a reminder, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga already warned, at the same conclave, that all political parties that supported the contentious bill are on the ‘verge of suicide’. Also, Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio predicted that this ‘highly controversial’ Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will change the demography of the Northeast, if it’s implemented by the Centre. This is understandable for sure.
Now, coming to NRC in Assam, it’s become an unnecessary controversy even though it was closely monitored by the Supreme Court of India. One is the poor implementation of the exercise and apathetic working style of the incompetent officials who dealt with and second is the strong objection by some vested interest parties and people, especially Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress of West Bengal, who claimed that the exercise was to driven out the Bengali speaking people from Assam and Northeast and a conspiracy of the ruling BJP. Even though their assertion and apprehension was unfounded for sure as it was not at all about linguistic and ethnic problem but surely about the unabated illegal immigrants swarming like ants to the region for decades, the concerns were felt to everyone. So, the bigger question to N Biren Singh is how he will implement the Citizenship Bill in Manipur. Every announcement by a state leader should have a clear picture beforehand what’s he going to do and how to implement it. Even if he claims that his cabinet had already passed the motion, we as a citizen haven’t yet seen it. Another concern is the baseline of the citizenship and to identify who are those people and under whose supervision and finally the dateline. At present, there are also reports that Manipur has more illegal immigrants from Myanmar than Bangladesh.
For the CAB, the Centre has already announced on so many occasions that it won’t have any impact on the demography and culture of northeast. But the anxiety expressed by the leaders of other northeast states can’t be ignored so easily. The Bill provides for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residence in India instead of current norm of 12 years, even if they do not possess any document. Now is the time for the state government to think and act carefully. It’s in your hands and we will closely monitor as a citizen.
By - Leichombam Kullajit