CAB gets green signal; Nagaland to be exempted
Our Reporter Dimapur, Dec. 4 (EMN): The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), a law that seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan if they have faced religious persecution in those countries. However, the contentious bill will not be applicable to Nagaland.
The president of the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), Ninoto Awomi confirmed to Eastern Mirror that the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah has assured that Nagaland will be exempted from the CAB.
Awomi informed that Shah convened a meeting with the chief minister of Nagaland, the Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF), the NSF, the Naga Peoples’ Front (NPF), Congress, civil societies, Director General of Police (DGP) and others on late Tuesday night to discuss on the CAB, where he assured that Nagaland will be exempted from it.
“We apprised him on the matter and the union government is committed to introduce the bill in the rest of the country but Nagaland, as we were told,” he said. He added that since the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise and Inner Line Permit (ILP) is already in place, the two would be enough to empower the state without CAB.
The CAB has sparked resentment in the Northeast as fear of giving citizenship to foreigners looms large among the indigenous people living in the region.
At a cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the government had taken care of the interests of everyone and “the interest of India”.
“People will welcome it as it is in the interest of the nation,” he said when asked about the protests by different groups, where refugees from the three neighbouring countries have been living in large numbers.
The government is likely to introduce the bill in the next two days and may push for its passage the next week.
However, key opposition parties like Congress and Trinamool Congress have severely criticised the bill, according to a report by PTI.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said the bill violates the basic idea of India, that religion can never be a reason for citizenship.
“Those who believe that religion should determine nationhood, that was the idea of Pakistan, they created Pakistan. We have always argued that our idea of the nation was what Mahatma Gandhi, Nehruji, Maluana Azad, Dr. Ambedkar have said, that religion cannot determine nationhood,” Tharoor told reporters within the premises of the Parliament.
“Ours is a country for everybody and everybody, irrespective of religion, has equal rights in this country, and the Constitution that they wrote reflected that. Today, this bill undermines this fundamental tenet of the Constitution,” he added.
Top BJP leaders, including its president and Home Minister Amit Shah, have held extensive parleys with political parties and citizen groups from the northeast to assuage their concerns by incorporating some of their major concerns to protect the local ethnic and tribal interests.
The Modi government had tabled the bill in Parliament in the final year of its previous term as well. Lok Sabha had passed it but Rajya Sabha blocked it. The government is believed to have made certain changes in the previous version of the bill in its new avatar.
Despite facing serious opposition, including from allies, the ruling BJP had expressed its determination repeatedly for the bill to be passed.
Senior party leader and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had on Tuesday asked BJP MPs to be present in large numbers in Parliament when the bill is tabled. This bill is as important as the move to nullify Article 370, he had said to underscore its ideological importance for the saffron party.
(With inputs from PTI)
NDPP lauds Amit Shah
The Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) has lauded Union Home Minister Amit Shah for inviting the chief ministers of the north-eastern states along with various civil societies and stakeholders of the region for consultations and deliberations on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 before it is tabled in the Parliament.
Through a statement issued on Wednesday, the party said that the gesture (consultative meeting) further proves the serious commitment of the Government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards respecting the sentiments of the people from the Northeast.
The party has appealed to Shah and the Government of India to uphold the assurances given by the Union Home Minister to the stakeholders and civil societies at the recent NEDA meeting in Guwahati and again in Aizwal, that provisions including enforcement of Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in the region would be made in the existing CAB before it is tabled in the Parliament in order to protect the rights of the north-eastern people.
“Considering the concern and the special attention given to the NER by the Narendra Modi led NDA government, we are confident that the GoI will not let the people of the region down and that all measures will be taken to safeguard the rights and privileges of the people of the NER,” read the statement.
It went on to say that Shah has, through his assurances, vindicated the stand of the chief minister, the state government and the NDPP-led PDA that “Nagaland is protected from the CAB by the provisions of Article 371(A) of the constitution of India and the ILP regime under the BEFR 1873.”
“We once again assure the people of Nagaland that the NDPP will never act in any way that will jeopardise the rights and privileges of the people and call upon the citizens of Nagaland to further build their confidence on the government they have mandated and the leaderships of the Hon’ble Chief Minister Mr. Neiphiu Rio and the Hon’ble Deputy Chief Minister Mr. Y. Patton in taking the state forward with stability, sustainability and self-dependency,” added the statement.
Zeliang speaks at a consultative meeting
Opposition leader TR Zeliang, while speaking at the consultative meeting in Delhi, extended gratitude to Amit Shah on behalf of NPF party for inviting leaders of all political parties of Nagaland to express their apprehensions and grievances before the CAB is reintroduced in the Lok Sabha.
In his speech, a copy of which has been made available to the media, Zeliang expressed hope that the genuine cry of the people would be heard and the outcome of the meeting would bring calm down the volatile situation created by CAB in Northeast. He acknowledged the effort of the government, saying that the recent announcement to incorporate a special clause in the bill to protect the interest of the people in the region showed its genuine approach to safeguard the rights and identity of the indigenous people from the CAB.
While urging Shah to exempt Nagaland from the CAB, Zeliang maintained that some people are under the impression that the state is protected from CAB under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act (BEFR), 1873 and the Inner Line Permit regulations (ILP). However, CAB aims to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 to provide citizenship to illegal migrants whereas the ILP only provides temporary access to outsiders into Nagaland, he said, adding that ILP would be unable to control the influx of illegal immigrants into the state if CAB is implemented.
He stated that the provisions under Article 371(A) and BEFR 1873/ILP would be unable to prevent people, especially illegal Bangladesh immigrants from acquiring citizenship anywhere in the country. He added that the countless undocumented illegal immigrants who have entered north-eastern states on or before December 31, 2014 would eventually attain citizenship if CAB is implemented.
Zeliang went on to say that the Naga people are not protected unless a particular word like “exemption” or “exempted” is incorporated as a special clause in the final draft of the bill before it is passed in the Parliament.