What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016?
The original Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 19 July 2016 by the Government of India. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 passed by the Lok Sabha on 8 January, 2019 seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian. It doesn’t have any provision for Muslims. The Bill also seeks to reduce the requirement of 11 years of continuous stay in the country to six years to obtain citizenship by naturalisation. The Bill covers all the States and Union Territories.
What are the main objects/ reasons of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
The Citizenship Act, 1955 was enacted to provide for the acquisition and determination of Indian citizenship. Under the existing provisions of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016, persons belonging to the minority communities, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who have either entered into India without valid travel documents or the validity of their documents have expired are regarded as illegal migrants and hence ineligible to apply for Indian citizenship. It is proposed to make them eligible for applying for Indian citizenship.
Many persons of Indian origin including persons belonging to the aforesaid minority communities from the aforesaid countries have been applying for citizenship under section 5 of the Act but are unable to produce proof of their Indian origin. Hence, they are forced to apply for citizenship by naturalisation under section 6 of the Act, which, inter alia, prescribes twelve years residency as qualification for naturalisation in terms of the Third Schedule to the Act. This denies them many opportunities and advantages that may accrue only to the citizens of India, even though they are likely to stay in India permanently. It is proposed to amend the Third Schedule to the Act to make the applicants belonging to minority communities from the aforesaid countries eligible for citizenship by naturalisation in seven years instead of the existing twelve years.
Who are illegal immigrants?
According to the Citizenship Act, 1955, an illegal immigrant as defined in section 2(1)(b) of the Act is a foreigner who entered India (i) without a valid passport or other prescribed travel documents or (ii) with a valid passport or other prescribed travel documents but remains in India beyond the permitted period of time.
Why is the BJP led Government so much interested in the Bill ?
In the General Election Manifesto during 2014, the BJP had promised to welcome the Hindu refugees and give shelter to them and grant citizenship to Hindus persecuted in the neighbouring countries. Hence it may be seen as a part of the fulfillment of the BJP’s election promise to the people.
What is NRC?
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is meant to identify a bona fide citizen. By the order of the Supreme Court of India, NRC is being currently updated in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals who might have entered the State illegally after the midnight of March 24, 1971. The date was decided in the 1985 Assam Accord, which was signed between the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). The NRC was first published after the 1951 Census in the independent India when parts of Assam went to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The first draft of the updated list was concluded by 31 December, 2017.
Important Points of the NRC (NRC)
More than 40 lakh people were left out of the final draft of Assam NRC
Those people can appeal/object after 30 August, 2018
They will be not be deemed as citizens of India if there names aren’t included in the final register
The final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on 7 August, 2018. Out of the 3.29 crore people who have applied to become a part of the NRC, 2.89 crore were identified as valid citizens. More than 40 lakh citizens have been found to be invalid citizens of India.
The NRC is being compiled under the orders of the Supreme Court of India to identify illegal foreigners residing in Assam. Panic spread in Assam soon after officials announced that more than 40 lakh people were not included in the National Register of Citizen (NRC). However, the officials reiterated that it is just a draft and this is not the final register. They said that people who haven’t been included in the NRC can appeal and present objections.
Those whose names weren’t there in the draft register will have the legal right to apply again by filing a claim between 30 August and 28 September , 2018.
Once the final NRC is published, those whose names aren’t in the final register will not be deemed as Indian citizens. These people will then have to approach the foreigners tribunals to fight for their citizenship.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, “Everyone will have an opportunity to file claims/objections as per provision in law. Only after the disposal of claims and objections, the final NRC will be published.”
How will the Bill affect the updated NRC list?
The sole purpose of the bill is to grant citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian. It doesn’t have any provision for Muslims. The Bill will operate on the basis of religion. But NRC does not distinguish migrants on the basis of religion. NRC will consider deporting anyone irrespective of religion who has entered the State illegally after 24 March, 1971. When the Bill becomes an Act, the non-Muslims migrants becomes automatically bonafide citizens of India nullifying 1985 Assam Accord, which was signed between the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and contradicting or superseding the NRC. It means that Assamese will continue to face the threat of becoming minority in their own state and the other states like Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh will share the burden of massive influx of illegal migrants.
Statement of the Prime Minister
The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said India needs the Citizenship(Amendment) Bill (CAB) -2016 to give relief to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian who are persecuted in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and as “ atonement for the wrongs of Partition”.
On 9 January, 2019 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a rally in Maharashtra reached out to the North Eastern states on the Citizenship Bill, which has caused a rift between the BJP and its allies in the North Eastern states. “I want to assure my brother and sisters of Assam and the Northeast, the youth there, that their rights will not be harmed,” the Prime Minister said.
Statement of the Home Minister Rajnath Singh
On 8 January, 2019, the Home Minister Rajnath Singh asserted that the bill was not against the provisions of the Constitution and would give succour to persecuted minorities in three neighbouring countries as they “have no place to go to, except India.” He said “The proposed law will not be confined to Assam alone. The burden of those persecuted migrants will be shared by the whole country. Assam alone should not have to bear the entire burden. The Government of India is committed to give all help to the State Government and people of Assam,”
During the nearly three-hour debate, the Union Home Minister said the Union Cabinet has also approved grant of Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to six communities of Assam namely Tai Ahom, Koch Rajbongshi, Chutia, Tea Tribes, Moran and Matak.
We need to check up whether whatever assurances given by the Union Home Minister is included in the original Bill passed by the Lok Sabha. If it is included, then it may be true. If it is not included, the Union Home Minister has no competency to modify the original Bill passed by the Lok Sabha. But he can modify it through the Joint Parliamentary Committee of the Rajya Sabha.
What is the present status of the Bill ?
On 15 July, 2016, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill CAB), 2016 was introduced in the Lok Sabha, On 31 July, 2016, the Lok Sabha referred the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to the Joint Select Committee .The committee was given time till the first day of the last week of the Winter Session of Lok Sabha to submit its report. Generally, the Winter Session of Parliament begins in November. However, the First Day Of Winter Session, Lok Sabha was adjourned after Obituary references to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Somnath Chatterjee and Union Minister Ananth Kumar. The Winter Session of Parliament began 11 December, 2018 (Tuesday) and end on 8 January, 2019. The Joint Select Committee submitted its recommendations on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 to the Lok Sabha on 7 January, 2019. Based on its recommendations a fresh bill was introduced and was passed by the Lok Sabha on 8 January, 2019. The Bill is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha and assented by the President of India.
How did the Joint Select Committee examine the Bill ?
The 16-member Joint Select Committee, headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agarwal had interviewed many people and conducted some field studies. During the course of its examination and field study visits, the committee met a cross section of people in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Assam and Meghalaya and heard views of organisations, individuals, experts and others. They had recently conducted public hearings in Guwahati, Silchar in Assam and Shillong in Meghalaya to gather opinion of the people on the proposed bill. The committee also heard the views of the chief secretaries and police chiefs of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The committee took six extensions from the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to enable them to complete the study before the winter session. .
The members of the Joint Select Committee visited Barak Valley, the Bengali-majority area of Assam, and Meghalaya to discuss it with various organisations. They reportedly spoke to about 200 organisations. They have not visited Manipur.
Oppositions to the Bill
On the day of passing the bill by he Lok Sabha, the opposition members opposed the bill saying it as “ divisive and flawed”. The Bill is receiving vehement opposition from all the States of North East (NE) including Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur. A large section of people, organisations in the North East (NE) have opposed the bill saying-” it will nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for deportation of all illegal mmigrants irrespective of religion.”
Hidden Agenda of the Government of India
The hidden Agenda of the Government of India may be to replace the mongoloid population with Aryan population. The strategy they have adopted is through population invasion- a war without arms. Prevent the people of North East from being united. The greatest fear of India is the emergence of an united north east. Therefore , the main focus of the mainland Indians is how to keep the North East people divided in the name of Political Parties, Ethnicity. Religion. They will be very happy if any civil war erupts in North East India.
The Chicken neck of 21-40 km between Garo Hilla and Siliguri is another cause of worry. This is only180 km away from the Chinese military camp. Once this is blcoked, the rest of India is cut off . North East is a sleeping giant . It is self sufficient in all respects to be an idependent sovereign country producing petrol, diesel, iron, coal, gas , tea for the last more than 100 years. Once it wakes up from slumber, that may be be the end of India .
Prevent the people of North East from being united. The greatest fear of India is the emergence of an united north east. Therefore , the main focus of the mainland Indians is how to keep us divided in the name of Political Parties, Ethnicity. Religion. They will be very happy if any civil war erupts in North East India.
Oppositions to the Bill in the North East
The people of the North East (NE) view the Bill as a threat to the very existence of indigenous peoples in the North East (NE). Many student organizations expressed that “ We will not accept any law which will take away our rights as indigenous people. It is a threat to our national security and a threat to our own existence. They raise a question :” Why do the Government of India using NE as a dumping ground for the illegal immigrants. It is a complete mockery of the constitution of India,”
A memorandum submitted to Rajendra Agarwal, Member of Parliament, Chairman, Joint Select Committee on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 through the Nagaland Governor also maintained that the crisis arising out of the unabated influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh has brought about serious demographic changes in the North East region in particular, and other parts of the country in general. The continued and unabated influx of refugees and undocumented illegal migrants from the neighbouring countries has further threatened the existence of indigenous people in respect of their cultural, social, economic and political identity, the memo read.
Response of Arunachal Pradesh
In Itanagar, members of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) said they would continue the stir till the time the government concedes to their demands. The AAPSU President Hawa Bagang said the Centre had no regard for the indigenous people of the region. “The proposed bill is one among the many examples that show the lawmakers in our country have no or very little regard for the indigenous populace of Arunachal Pradesh and the entire North East region,” he said. The AAPSU would organize more such democratic movements, under the aegis of Northeast Students’ Organization (NESO), in the interest of the indigenous people. The Bangladeshi refugees, who have been residing illegally in our state, would be asked to leave, he said. “We will soon serve notices to all the Bangladeshis, who have sneaked into our state, after the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft was released in Assam.”
Response of the Assam
Rajendra Agarwal, BJP MP, head of the 16-member Joint Select Parliamentary Committee during a public hearing in Shillong on 10 May 2018 said that the views and recommendations would be compiled in a report and submitted to Parliament. On 23 October, 2018 , 46 organisations in Assam called a 12-hour bandh to protest against the Centre’s bid to pass the proposed legislation in the forthcoming session of Parliament.
On 17 November, 2018, 28 ethnic communities took out a torchlight rally demanding immediate withdrawal of the Bill. On 16 January, 2019 Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister of Assam said “The people of Assam have made me the chief minister with lots of trust and confidence. I have not come here to betray them. I shall work for the development of Assam till the last moment,” said the chief minister while addressing a meeting at Dhubri in Assam. The pressure increased on Mr Sonowal after the state government of Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland opposed the bill. The Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), who is the BJP’s coalition partner in the Government has threatened to cut ties with the party if the Bill is passed. The AGP considers the Bill to work against “the cultural and linguistic identity of the indigenous people of the State”. The Students’ organisation such as All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Civil Society Organisation such as the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti also have opposed the Bill. They have organised a number of Bandhs and strikes.
The people are not happy when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address in Silichar that “the Citizenship Bill is an atonement of the wrong that was done during India’s Partition.
While quitting the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) who was a signatory of Assam Accord-1985 said “as per the accord, all illegal immigrants, irrespective of religion, have to be deported and this Bill violates the Assam accord-1985. The Clause 6 of the Assam Accord states “constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”. The people of Assam feel that the Citizenship (Amendment Bill-2016 will nullify the Assam Accord -1985.
On 8 January, 2019 agitators clashed with the police, gheraoed Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s house at his native place in Dibrugarh, blocked national highways and damaged vehicles in Assam during the ‘bandh’. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) activists tried to ransack a BJP office in Dibrugarh, prompting security forces to resort to lathicharge and fire rubber bullets.
Response of the Meghalaya
The Meghalaya governments has strongly opposed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and adopted resolutions against it. The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government, an ally of the BJP, has opposed the Bill. Calling the Bill “dangerous,” the Meghalaya government said that they don’t agree with the idea of non-Muslims acquiring citizenship after six years of living in the country.
Response of Mizoram
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga, another BJP partner, is also upset. Zoramthanga and his party Mizo National Front (MNF) supported yesterday’s North East Bandh and said the Bill is against the principle of secularism and would have an adverse effect in the North East. Earlier, the Young Mizo Association (YMA) had written to PM Modi, expressing strong opposition against the Bill. The Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) urged the legislators of Mizoram to adopt a resolution to reject the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. Now Mizoram is saying “ Hello China, Bye Bye India.”
Response of Nagaland
On 1 June, 2018, the Nagaland . Tribes Council (NTC) has urged the Nagaland Government to oppose the Bill keeping the people’s wishes and interest of the citizens of the state.
While granting citizenship on religious consideration is dangerous and against secular principle of India, the NTC also reminded that North-East is highly infested by illegal immigrants particularly from Bangladesh and already heavily burdened with foreigners’ issue and regularisation of these illegal residents has become a direct threat to region’s political future and the survival of its indigenous people, identity, culture and land. The NTC pointed out that “When Assam is flooded with foreigners, Nagaland will become the first victim of the proposed Bill,” it cautioned. The NTC has urged the Government of India not to go against the sentiments of the indigenous population.
Response of Tripura
On 12 January, 2019, the Tribal groups (indigenous people) of Tripura have called a 12-hour bandh protesting against the citizenship (amendment) Bill. “The BJP-led government’s police opened fire on unarmed innocent people while they were protesting against the Bill in a democratic manner injuring six youths. The Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), demanded the resignation Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb. They want a judicial probe headed by a sitting High Court judge, compensation of Rs. 20 lakh or government jobs for the families of the injured youth. Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), demanded the resignation Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb. They pointed out that a few decades back the population of illegal immigrants was just 20 to 30 percent but today the reverse can be seen where the indigenous population is being reduced to 30 percent. They said “illegal migrants are dominating our economy and this bill will be a boon for them to settle in our land. We believe –this protest is for our future. We may not get immediate action but it is a good step and we hope that more people will join this cause. The Bill will allow the eligibility of citizenship for illegal immigrants on the basis of religion which may violate the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guaranteeing the right to equality.
On 12 January, 2019 “ The NESO Adviser, Samujjal Bhattacharjee said BJP-led Tripura government does not believe in democratic values. The party is trying to bulldoze sentiments and opinion of the people of the northeast. The BJP is using force on people of the northeast, who voted for them and the police firing is an example of that. We will fight this and not allow the bill to be implemented,”
Alleging conspiracy, Tripura BJP spokesperson, Nabendu Bhattacharjee said that the tribal parties, who called the Bandh, “have no base among the masses” and these parties and the CPI-M are “conspiring against the state government”. The Congress party is also supporting the Bandh in Tripura.”
Response of Manipur
N. Biren Singh, Chief Minister told media on Tuesday , 23 May, 2018 - “ The proposed legislation would not have any effect in Manipur. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill concerns Assam. It will not affect Manipur (TOI ). On 25 May, 2018, the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) has strongly condemned the response of Chief Minister N Biren Singh regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, and has demanded the State Government to oppose the same.On 18 May 2018, a press release issued by the information and publicity secretary of AMSU claimed that North East Students Organisation (NESO) submitted various memos to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which came to the North East and to the Prime Minister as well demanding the Bill to be revoked. On the other hand, AMSU also submitted memos to the Governor and the Chief Minister condemning the Bill and demanding the Government to oppose the same. On 22 May, 2018 Students in Imphal too held the agitation under the banner of All Manipur Student Union (AMSU). The protest was carried out at Keishampat Community Hall in Imphal. On 31 May, 2018, Th Biswajit , spokesperson of the Manipur Government said that “the State Government will urge the centre not to cover Manipur by the citizen (amendment) bill, 2016” .On 17 January, 2019, Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh says his government will want the President’s Assent to Manipur People’s (Protection) Bill, 2018 before passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. Mr Singh also stressed that his Government will want the President’s assent to Manipur People’s (Protection) Bill, 2018 before passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. He also said- “Unless there is a provision for protecting the indigenous people of Manipur as well as the other northeast states, the state government would not support the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill-2016,” while inaugurating several development projects in Chandel district.
Two Points of Chief Minister to the Union Home Minister
On 12 January, 2019, Manipur Chief Minister Shri N. Biren Singh called on Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh along with Manipur BJP President and Rajya Sabha MP, Ksh. Bhabananda Singh. Shri Biren Singh submitted a memorandum for giving Presidential Assent to Manipur People Bill, 2018. Shri Rajnath assured that the Ministry will examine the Bill. (PIB dated 14/1/2019) Shri Rajnath’s assurance is not to give assent but to examine the Bill. After returning from Delhi, the Chief Minister placed two points before the people of Manipur :-
1. The President should assent the Manipur People Bill-2018 before the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-2016 is passed by the Rajya Sabha.
2. The Chief Minister will urge the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to provide an “ Exclusion Clause “ in the Bill to exclude Manipur from the Citizen (Amendment ) Bill-2016.
The Chief Minister’s proposals are very good proposals. The only question is how can we put a condition on the President of India saying that “you do this first before doing the other”. Secondly, the Chief Minister’s statement show that he supported both the Bills -the Manipur People Bill-2018 and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-2016. He does not oppose the Bill or demand withdrawal of the Bill.
According to the Manipur People Bill -2018 Manipur People means all the NATIVE People of Manipur. But the Bill does not define who are the Native People or Indigenous people or Aboriginal peoples of Manipur. We should not take everything on assumption. A sentence defining who are the native people or indigenous people of Manipur need to be inserted. Native people means the indigenous people of Manipur. Indigenous peoples, also known as first peoples, aboriginal peoples or native peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original settlers of a given region. According to the Supreme Court Judgement, only “the Tribal are the Indigenous people” of India. That means Meiteis are not Native people or the Indigenous people of Manipur since Meiteis are not Scheduled Tribes. But the Meiteis are the original settlers or first settlers of Manipur. They are, therefore the Native people or Indigenous people of Manipur. In order to claim as indigenous people, Meiteis need to be listed as Scheduled Tribes under Article 342 of Indian Constitution. This needs to be reflected in the Manipur people Bill-2018. The present Manipur People Bill -2018 which is lying with the Union Home Ministry has several loopholes. I may be allowed to cite some examples. If the President give assent to this Manipur people Bill-2018, we may not be able to amend it for several decades. If we want an effective Manipur people Bill-2018, we should withdraw it and redraft it with the help of some constitutional expert like Ram Jetmalani, Soli Sorabjee, Fali Sam Nariman, Mukul Rohtagi.
The present Manipur people Bill-2018 does not have penalty provisions for defaulters although there is penalty provisions for hosteller and owners of buildings who sheltered the non-Manipuris for not informing the State Government. Our legal experts have pointed out that without punishment clauses, the Bill will be just like a paper tiger and will not be effective. What is the use of having an ineffective Bill. It will defeat the purpose of the Bill. At the same time, the legal experts have also pointed out that under Article 35 (a) ( ii) . the state can not enact a law having punishment clauses. They have not mentioned about 7th Schedule List 2 (State List Entry 64 –Offences against Laws under which the state is empowered to enact laws connected with offences. If the State can not enact a law having punishment clauses, how are other advanced States like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat enacted laws having punishment clauses. It is here that we need the services of constitutional experts like Ram Jetmalani, Soli Sorabjee, Fali Sam Nariman, Mukul Rohtagi. The Karnataka State Legislative Assembly passed the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prohibition of transfer of certain lands) Act, 1978 (Karnataka Act No. 2 of 1979 ) with punishment clauses of imprisonment which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees or with both. (http://dpal.kar.nic.in/pdf_files/2%20of%201979%20(E).pdf). The Andhra Pradesh State Legislature passed an Act namely “the Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982” (Act No. 12 of 1982), which was published in Andhra Pradesh Gazette, Part IV-B (E.O.) dated 6th September, 1982 with punishment clauses of imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees”.(http://apland.ap.nic.in/ cclaweb/scan20acts /land %20grabbing.html)
The Gujarat State Legislative Assembly passed an Act entitled the Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 (Act 24 of 2003) on 12 March 2003 to provide for freedom of religion by prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by the use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means Under section 5 (3), there is a punishment clause which reads: “Whoever fails, without sufficient cause, to comply with the provisions of sub-sections (1) and (2) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to rupees one thousand or with both.” (http://www.emw-d.de/fix/files/indien-religionsgesetz.pdf).
There are many more examples. I do not want to go further. My plea is that if other state can pass bills with punishment clauses, why not Manipur do it. The State Government shall need to examine critically whether a punishment clause of three months detention can be inserted for violators of this Act to make the Bill/Act more effective ? Moreover, there is no mention about deletion of names of migrants workers entering Manipur after 18 November, 1950 from the electoral rolls. There is no mention about invalidation and cancellation of Sale Deeds , Pattas (Jamabandi) of migrant workers who purchased land in Manipur after 18 November, 1950. The Statement of objects and reasons of the present Bill should be very clear. It should include , inter alia, protection of the identity , culture, lands, language, script and business of the indigenous people and permanent citizens of Manipur The present Manipur people Bill-2018 does not specify the fees to be given by the migrant to the Government of Manipur. I strongly feel that Compulsory Registration on payment of prescribed fees with exemption clauses for students, employees of the Central government etc. Extension of Registration etc should be included. This will improve the revenue of the State also.
The Chief Minister also said that he will urge the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to provide an “ Exclusion Clause “ in the Bill to exclude Manipur from the Citizen (Amendment ) Bill-2016. The Bill is already passed by the Lok Sabha. What our Chief Minister is saying relates to the legislative process of the Rajya Sabha.
Legislative Process of the Rajya Sabha.
The Bill after passing in the Lok Sabha will be examined in the Rajya Sabha under three readings :-
(1) First Reading consists of the Introduction of a Bill. The Bill is introduced after adoption of a motion for leave to introduce a Bill in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill is introduced after adoption of a motion for leave to introduce a Bill in either of the House. At this stage, the Rajya Sabha can refer the Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committees for examination and report within three months. It is at this stage that the Manipur State Government has to submit the desired Exclusion Clause to the Prime Minister, Home Minister with a request to get it examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Rajya Sabha. If the proposal for Exclusion Clause is sent to the Prime Minister, Home Minister withthe State Assembly Resolution, it will carry more weight and there is greater chance of success. Even if the matter is not taken up by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the blame will be shared with the Manipur State Legislative Assembly. The proposal Exclusion Clause should consists of full justification and shall be convincing to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. On receipt of the proposal, the Rajya Sabha will set up the Parliamentary Standing Committees and the Bill is referred to the Committees for examination and report within three months.
(2) The next stage on a Bill is the second reading, which start only after the Committee summits its report on the Bill to the Houses. the Second Reading consists of two stages:
(2a ) the ‘first stage’ consists of discussion on the principles of the Bill and its provisions generally on any of the motions: that the Bill be taken into consideration; that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha.
(2b) the ‘second stage’ signifies the clause-by clause consideration of the Bill as introduced or as reported by the Select/Joint Committee. Amendments given by members to various clauses are moved at this stage.
(3) The Third Reading refers to the discussion on the motion that the Bill (or the Bill as amended) be passed or returned wherein the arguments are based against or in favour of the Bill. After a Bill has been passed by one House, it is sent to the other House where it goes through the same procedure. However the Bill is not again introduced in the other House, it is laid on the Table of the other House which constitutes its first reading there.
After a Bill has been passed by both Houses, it is presented to the President for his assent. The President can assent or withhold his assent to a Bill or he can return a Bill, other than a Money Bill, for reconsideration. If the Bill is again passed by the Houses, with or without amendment made by the President, he shall not withhold assent there from. But, when a Bill amending the Constitution passed by each House with the requisite majority is presented to the President, he shall give his assent thereto.
Manipur’s indigenous population is hardly 0.20 % of India’s population . What will happen to the indigenous population of Manipur if more than two lakhs of people from mainland India starts migrating to Manipur every year . This was what has happened from 1951 onwards till date. Naturally the indigenous Manipuris will become minority in our own state during the next 20-30 years.
Strength of Rajya Sabha
For the purpose of lobbying, it is necessary to study the present strength of Rajya Sabha. The total strength of Rajya Sabha as on 20 January, 2019 is 245 of which the party-wise position is as follows-
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP ) -73, Indian National Congress (INC )-50, ALL INDIA TRINAMOOL CONGRESS (AITC )-13, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK )-13, Samajwadi Party (SP )-13, Samajwadi Party (SP )-9, Independent & Others (IND.), Janata Dal (United) (JD(U) ) -6, Telugu Desam Party (TDP )-6, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS )-6, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD )-5, Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) )-5, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK )-4, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP )-4, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP ), Nominated (MARRY KOM)-3, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD ) -3, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP ) -3, Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP )-2, Communist Party of India (CPI )-2, J&K Peoples Democratic Party (J&K PDP )-2, Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S) ) -1, Kerala Congress (M) (KC(M) )-1, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD ) -1, Kerala Congress (M) (KC(M) )-1, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD )-1, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML )-1, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF )-1, Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF )-1, Naga Peoples Front (NPF )-1, Republican Party of India (A) (RPI(A) )-1
What to do now ?
The Chief Minister may be in a position to convert the existing problems into opportunities. If carefully planned, we can bring love, understanding, harmony and unity among all ethnic groups and launch a collective struggle to achieve greater autonomy with a separate constitution drafted in consultation with all ethnic groups of Manipur. Piecemeal demand for ILP, Scheduled Tribe, lifting of AFSPA-1958 , amendment of Article-3 are only symptomatic treatment –not a cure. If the demand for greater autonomy is ignored by the Government of India, we can go for revival of the Manipur Constitution Act-1947. Presently, India is having two constitutions. Both the demands for greater autonomy and revival of the Manipur Constitution Act-1947 are technically, politically , constitutionally feasible provided we are united. Men united are invincible. To start with, the Chief Minister may kindly consider the following suggestions in the greater interest of the people of Manipur.
1. Calling a Manipur Legislative Assembly’s Special Session- Taking a Resolution of the Manipur Legislative Assembly regarding the insertion of an “Exclusion Clause that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bll-2016 is not applicable to Manipur”. This may be done before 30 January, 2019. On 23 January, leaders of nine political parties submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Manipur, Dr. Najma Heptulla on the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 and urged her to direct the state government to summon a special session of Manipur Legislative Assembly to discuss the Bill while also asking for the central government and Parliament to withdraw the Bill. The Government of India may not honour the Assembly Resolution. But this will be a record which will be useful for future. Otherwise people may heap all the blames on the Chief Minister. If Assembly resolution is taken, people can not blame the CM even if the mission failed.
2.Meeting of the All Political Parties- The Chief Minister has already convened All Political Parties meeting on 28 Januuary-2019. The JD(U) has expressed their unhappiness and said that they will not join the All Political Parties meeting. Since this matter is crucial, the JD (U) may kindly re-consider their stand and participate in the meeting in greater interest of the people. The meeting is very important as they have to discuss important points like (1) withdrawal of the Bill from the Rajya Sabha or (2) simply requesting the Government of India to insert (a) an Exclusion Clause in the original Bill that this Bill does not cover Manipur (b) a para saying that the migrants should be settled only in their original homes in their original home states. If they are Bengalis, they should settle in West Bengal –not Assam or Manipur (3) to decide the date of calling Manipur Legislative Assembly session before the date of Rajya Sabha session,(30/01/2019). (4) Constitution of Manipur Population Commission. (5) possible withdrawal and redrafting of the Manipur People Bill-2018 (6) Effective Implementation of Foreigners Act-1946 in Manipur etc.
The proposal for withdrawal of the Bill from the Rajya Sabha at this stage will be next to impossible. The proposal for insertion of an Exclusion Clause may be possible if we can influence the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the Rajya Sabha members to refer the matter to the Select Parliamentary Committee. The Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, other MPs from the national political parties can help in the formation and recommendation of the Select Parliamentary Committee The Rajya Sabha session is from 30th January to 11 February, 2019. Whether the Manipur Politicians will be able to do this type of lobbying during such a short time is a big question. One Quick Fix method is –if all the 60 MLAs and MPs irrespective of parties including Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Ministers of the present and the past Manipur Government, Marry Kom, MP organise a sit in protest with complete coverage of National TV Channels , there is a chance for success. Mr. Arvind Kejriwal sat on Dharna while he was the Chief Minister of Delhi. The Delhi Students Union and the people of Manipur may join the Dharna. If the Manipur MLAs and Ministers want to do something positive, they may leave Imphal within a few days and start organising the strategy of the war. The people of Manipur may not like to see their faces in Manipur during the Rajya Sabha session. The Political Parties can issue a warning signal to the Central Government that if Rajya Sabha do not consider their demands, we may be compelled to launch a people movement to demand for Greater Autonomy of Manipur with our own constitution.
3.Formation of an All Political Parties Delegation with the CM as Chairman to lobby with the Prime Minister, Home Minister, BJP Leaders, National Leaders of other political parties. Lobbying with other political Parties will be very important. Other important parties are Indian National Congress (INC ), All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) Samajwadi Party (SP ) ,Janata Dal (United) (JD(U) ) Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS ), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) , Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) ), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK ), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP ), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), North East India Development Party , MPP etc. All prominent members of all political parties will be included.
4.Lobbying with National Leaders-The leaders of other parties except BJP may contact and hand over the write up to their respective National Leaders. For example, the leaders of Manipur Congress may meet Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and all the Congress MPs of Rajya Sabha. Let us not blame the present Manipur MPs. They are innocent. They may not be having advocacy skills, We should help them and strengthen their hands.
5.Formation of a Citizens Forum on Citizenship (Amendment)Bll-2016 comprising of all heads of the Civil Society Organisations like UCM, AMUCO, Committee on Human Rights, AMWOVA, ICHAM, Federation of Haomees, Apunba Lup, Meira Paibee Groups etc. One eminent senior person may be identified as the chairman of the Forum. They may submit a memorandum giving justification for inserting Exclusion Clause and others as mentioned above. They are expected to speak some vital points which the representatives of political parties may not be in a position to speak out The Forum may assert that if the legitimate demands of Manipur is ignored by the Government of India, we are going to launch a peoples movement for demand of Greater Autonomy within India but with our own Constitution. The Indian Constitution is found to be not appropriate for a small state of Manipur. If the demand for Greater Autonomy is also ignored, then we will work for revival of the Manipur State Constitution Act-1947. What we require today is unity among us, among all ethnic groups, among Nagas, Meiteis, Kukis, Meitei Pangans, among civil societies of hills and valley, among insurgent groups etc. We should have heart to heart dialogue. There is no need of unification of all institutions.
We should have common understanding, common language, common objectives, common strategy and common goals. The destiny of Manipur is to be decided by us –not by outsiders. United we stand, divided we fall.
6.We should also explore the legal option as suggested by Narengbam Samarjit Singh, Director, Salai Holdings Pvt.Ltd. and President of the North East India Development Party. There are some points which are considered unconstitutional in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016. We may directly approach the Supreme Court of India for doing justice.
What we need to day is one HERO who can dedicate and sacrifice for the cause of sovereignty and liberty of Manipur and lead the people in the right direction. A leader can make the difference between success and failure. This is a cause worth fighting for and worth dying for. Time for action is today. Tomorrow, it may be too late.
Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents.