Views & Reviews
The Reasons Why I Supported the New Rectified CAB of 9th December 2019
My Dear fellow Citizens of Nagaland,
As your M.P in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) in the Parliament of India, you deserve an explanation from me over the controversy surrounding the latest Amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 which has caused a storm in the public domain in the State of Nagaland and the Region. For want of completing Party formalities and the resultant misfortune, I profoundly regret the delay in reaching-out to you in time. In the following pages, with no legal background I wish to explain and share with you in my simple layman’s language certain facts of history and the realities underlining this contentious issue while reflecting on the background also dwelling on the present situation and the scope of the future as a consequence of this Bill. As the matter involves our over-all interest I seek to draw your fullest attention and consideration.
What is Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 (Citizenship Amendment Act 2019)?
The Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 is the latest Amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 (referred to as the Principal Citizenship Act of 1955) The main object of the CAA 2019 is to grant Citizenship to the refugees who have entered and settled in India on or before the 31st of December 2014 from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh belonging to the 6 minority religions such as- Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian who are seeking shelter in India which is secular and free for all religions. The illegal immigrants have fled from these three countries because they are tortured and persecuted in their own countries which are Theophoric States/Nations with ISLAM declared in their Constitutions as the National Religion. The Illegal Bangladesh Immigrants (IBI) refugees issue has dogged the NE States for many decades especially since 1971 but no successive govt at the Centre has shown the political will to resolve this problem despite the Assam Accord of 1985. When finally, this decision was taken, it will naturalise a huge bulk of population which have snowballed into a mass protest by the people of this region.
Apprehensions: The reason for opposing the granting of citizenship to the Refugees through an Amendment Act of the original CAB 2016 and CAB 8th January 2019 are varied and many, differing from State to State. But for the Indigenous tribal populations of the North-East Region, the reason is mainly the fear of population over-run meaning a demographic invasion upon their territorial land, socio-cultural heritage, customary practises, lingual, racial and religious practises, Economic and political exploitations and their very existence as a people. The fears are genuine and the threat is compounded now by taking–in more citizens. The tribal indigenous population is very sparse and low with a national census percentage of 2.5 as maximum in the entire N.E Region. This being a fact, the British Empire in India had closely guarded the interest of the land and the people of this Tribal Area as far back as the 19th Century with Regulations like the Inner-Line Permit which prohibited All citizens of India from entering into the Naga Hills and other tribal Areas long before we were aware of the dangers surrounding us. Very strict provisions were promulgated imposing heavy penalty and imprisonment for violation of the Restrictive Laws of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873. Other protective laws may exist for other aspects of the tribal life but to check the influx of Demographic invasion (population inflow) by the swarming millions from neighbouring mainland India, there was never such a Law so effective and providing an overall protective shield over the centuries. Today in the face of this threat looming over our heads we once again have to take refuge under this defensive structure.
Therefore, the reason behind our opposition and protest against the proposed original CAB of 2016 up to the 8th of December 2019 was that this Bill does not provide any protective Section or clause to shield us against the influx of Illegal Bangladesh Immigrants (IBI) and the neighbouring mainland citizens of India.
Background of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 (Inner Line Permit)
The history of Inner Line Permit (ILP) Regulation traces back its concepts and origin to the British Parliament, when the then Prime Minister(1855 -1865) Henry John Temple the 3rd Lord Palmerston declared in a very clear and determined statement to the Parliament “It is not only our duty…..but in our interest to promote the diffusion of Christianity as far as possible throughout the length and breadth of India”. Re-enforcing the obvious intension behind the British policy, the Secretary of States Lord Halifax observed “Every additional Indian Christian is an additional bond of Union and a source of strength to the British Empire” Emphasising more precisely on the value they placed in this policy- Sir Mac Worth Young stated “They (Christians) are worth far more to the British Empire than all those civil servants, soldiers, judges and governors of India”!
Such reiteration of Great Britain’s will to propagate Christianity in British-India must have been necessary since their campaign had not evoked satisfactory result which was undertaken since 1813 in the rest of India. Prompting a more focused and systematic approach towards certain Identified Regions as the “Thrust Areas” beyond the demarcated Inner-Line they carved out the Indigenous Tribal Areas as a Reserved Zone. Despite the strict Prohibitory Rules the American Missionaries were continuously encouraged and a Free Passage was given to them throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries finally accomplishing their set goals. And the rest is history for which we are ever grateful to the Almighty GOD.
Therefore the stand taken by leading statesman of the world’s mightiest Empire of their times conceptualized an essentially Religious policy which soon found expressions in the birth of the ILP of Bengal Eastern Frontiers Regulation on the 1st of November 1873 in British–India under the Governor General Lord North Brook and the Lt. Governor of Bengal Province Mr.George Campbell.
After this Regulation was published in the Gazette of India and the preamble published in the Calcutta Gazette it will there upon have “the Force of Law” under the provision of Act 33rd of Victoria Chapter 3.
In the 1st Category of the Local Extend “Naga Hills” is mentioned prominently and later by notification under the Scheduled District Acts 1874 XIV Section 5 it was extended to several indigenous Tribal Areas of the present North-Eastern Region (part I, page 529. 1873)
The provisions of Inner Line Permit Regulations were strictly enforced upon “All citizens of India” or any class of such citizens (meaning even British who were citizens of India) were prohibited from entering the Inner – Line Areas. This implies that the ILP was exclusively and categorically meant to restrict all Citizens of Indian (2nd Page – Para II of Regulation 5 of 1873). Even if granted an ILP, the Rules were extremely harsh as seen in 5 (1) “ Any rubber, wax, or other jungle products or any Books, Diary, Manuscript, Maps, picture, photograph, film, curio or Article of Religious or scientific interest unless permitted by the British-India authority will be confiscated by the Magistrate and even partly written scripts were a violation of the Regulations inside the Inner Line Areas.
Provision No.7 states “ It shall not be Lawful for any person other than a native (local) of the notified District comprised in the preamble of this Regulation, to acquire any interest in land (buy land) or the product of land inside the Inner-Line without the sanction of the Authority (State Govt.)”
From the aforementioned provisions of the ILP Regulations and the Penalties imposed for violators, it is clear that this served as the strongest tool in safe-guarding and protecting our over-all interest especially in the religious, social ,lingual and cultural aspects preserving our identity as a people to survive with our ethos in all aspect of life and it shielded us like a floodgate against the demographic invasion from the swarming millions of mainland India which certainly would have marginalised our population to an abject minority which in a democracy will mean complete dominance of the political powers by strangers in our own land. All these dangers were lurking around us long before we realised our precarious situation, when the ILP Regulations was silently and stoutly defending us through-out the British-India period.
Coincidently, though the driving force was motivated for diffusion of Christianity, the ILP Regulation of 1873 can be rightly attributed as the strongest factor which has shielded and protected the Naga society very effectively ever since its inception up to 1946. The turning point for the ILP emerged when India achieved her Independence in 1947 and started to frame her own new Constitution where the legal standing and Constitutional position of the ILP was completely compromised, weakened and displaced as the ILP BEF Regulation was never incorporated into the Principal Citizenship Act of 1955 which is a Restrictive Law exclusively and categorically to prohibit all citizens of India and also the British citizens living in India during that period. This affected a paradigm shift in the effective strength and powers of the ILP Regulation reducing it to a mere Notification/Memo/Order at the whim and wishes of the Central/Union Government of India which can be scrapped overnight. Thereby, placing our only protective shield at the mercy of a Union Cabinet decision which will not fall within the purview of the Parliament.
Thus, the two important essences went missing in the new Constitution of India:-
- In the Citizenship Act of 1955 where the citizens of India were given their Rights and Privileges and also the Restrictions and Conditions, the Restriction on all citizens of India to not thoroughfare into the ILP Areas was not incorporated thereby not subjecting and binding the provision of BEFR of 1873 on the citizens of India And,
- The extension and coverage of the ILP Regulation with specific reference to the territories and Tribal Areas has never been reflected or incorporated in any Act of the Constitution which underwent the Enactment of Parliament thereby, rendering the ILP Regulation’s coverage purely on a temporary basis. Meaning it can be withdrawn or scrapped overnight.
Today, along with the rest of the world, India too is undergoing drastic changes in recent times for better or for worse; unfortunately Religious fundamentalism and communalisms are raising their ugly heads. Hard core Religious ideologues are dictating their terms in the corridors of the powers that be, fanaticism is the order of the day and the onslaught continues. This is a highly risky position since power keeps changing hands, different political parties with different ideologies and policies exchange the reign of power ushering in leaders with varying mindsets and outlook on life. Looking at the national scenario from this perspective we are but a hopeless minority both inside the Parliament and in the country. Even clubbed together the 8 N.E States together form a bare 5% of the national census thereby, reducing the numerical strength of the M.Ps in both the Houses of the Parliament to an abject minority. Therefore, in a situation where we cannot influence the policies and determine the future course of actions to be followed in the nation, we live in uncertain times.
Under the given circumstances with no options left we focused our efforts towards the inclusion of the ILP Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873 and restore its full powers and position in the Constitution through an Enactment of the Citizenship Act in the 9th Amendment Bill of 9th December 2019.
In pursuance of the Action Plan I led the debate on the motion of thanks to the Presidential Address in the Monsoon Session in June/July 2019 in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) and have suggested working out certain modalities and mechanism for each State respectively in the North-Eastern region due to the different situation and history. This was followed by a series of protest outside the Parliament of India. Hectic parleys, lobbying and consultations continued also with the Nagaland Team on the 3rd of December 2019 in New Delhi and it continued till the new Bill was rectified in the last minute to incorporate the Inner-Line (BEFR 1873) as Sec.6B clause 1-4 when it was placed in Lok Sabha on the 9th of December 2019.
Finally, responding to the determined stand, the Union government yielded to our pressure by rectifying the old CAB 2016 and incorporated a special Section 6B clause 4 which reads “ Nothing in this section shall apply to tribal area of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram or Tripura as included in the sixth schedule to the Constitution and the area covered under “The Inner- Line” notified under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation,1873” in the new redrafted Amendment Bill on the 9th of December 2019 which have been passed by both the Houses of Parliament and has now become an Act in the Constitution of India. Therefore, the two most important Essences which were missing for the last 64 years have now been addressed which are
- Subjecting and binding the provision of the ILP (BEFR of 1873) on all citizens of India under “Restrictions and Conditions” in the Principal Citizenship Act of 1955.
- Ensuring the permanent extension and coverage of the ILP (BEFR 1873) Regulation in the referred Tribal Areas (Nagaland). Thus, giving it a permanent nature which cannot be scrapped by a mere Union Government Notification / Memo/order. And Unlike the earlier position, the ILP-BEF Regulation of 1873 cannot be challenged in any Court of Law which otherwise was dragged to the Supreme Court of India (ref: Writ Petition Civil No.(s) 594/2019 Dt.2/7/2019 Supreme Court of India)
As such, taking into account and examining the fate of all the Refugees waiting for grant of Indian citizenship and the fall-out of whether being granted or rejected, the relevance to our State may be examined as below.
- (a) For those who will not be granted Indian Citizenship they will have to be deported out of the country in the shortest possible time and
(b) For those granted citizenship through naturalisation with the latest CAA 2019 they will not become super citizens of India but will only be normal citizens of India. Therefore, the provisions of ILP-BEFR 1873 will be applicable to them.
- For those Foreigners coming as a Tourist visitor he/she will be granted the “Restricted Area Permit” (RAP) from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and also the grant of ILP by the State Govt.of Nagaland where both the provisions thereof will be applicable to them.
- For those citizens of India belonging to any State of India but not from Nagaland, they will be granted the “Inner-Line Permit” (ILP) and the provisions thereof will be applicable to them. But if the ILP is not granted to them and the person has illegally infiltrated into Nagaland, the penalties as mentioned in the provisions of the ILP will be imposed.
With all these options available to the State Govt.of Nagaland, the onus rests on us whether to strictly implement or loosely implement or not to implement at all. The choice and decision remains within ourselves as a domestic affair of the State and its people.
Why I voted in support of CAA 2019.
Though all the Opposition MPs from North Eastern States were protesting against CAB 2016 shoulder to shoulders inside or outside the Parliament, the demands and reasons are different from one State to State. For instance, Manipur was demanding for extension of ILP in the entire State, Meghalaya was also demanding for full coverage under ILP by scrapping the Sixth Schedules, Mizoram was also demanding for extension of the ILP in the entire State and Assam was demanding for cut off of year of 24th March 1971 and the West Bengal is demanding for Inclusion of Muslims and different reasons in different parts of the country.
I understand that the fall-out and consequences of any decision by any authority in any part of the world does not bear the same affect on everybody and my heart goes out to the communities who are adversely affected by the negative impact of this Enactment but for me the Interest of my State and our people remains my priority. So fully understanding that our demand was met by inserting the protective “PROVISIONS”, as rectified and incorporated in the redrafted Bill of 9th December 2019, I extended an “Issue based” support when the Bill was placed in the Rajya Sabha on the 11th of December 2019.
Whether the infiltrators be illegal immigrants or Foreigners or mainland Citizens of India henceforth, the State Govt. Of Nagaland must strictly enforce the Provisions of ILP Regulations and should the need arise even legislate more provisions to safe-guard our territorial integrity and Identity while also preserving our Ethos as a people for as long as we remain under this Union as a State. But interestedly Nagaland has almost assumed the status of a semi sovereign State after the latest Enactment of Parliament where the ILP equals to a VISA which is the only permit granted by all Foreign Nations to any class of people required for entering their country.
To bolster and fortify the ILP Regulations, it may be worthwhile for the Govt.of Nagaland to explore for creation of an “ILP Enforcement Directorate” having Subordinate District and Sub-Divisional level “Enforcement Squads” across the State since it is now bestowed with sweeping powers .It must also work out modalities and mechanism to ensure stringent enforcement of the provisions as provided to deal effectively with all threats confronting us today and also to strongly secure our future which comes along with the population influx from outside of the State.
I take this opportunity to place on record my gratitude to the Government of the United kingdom(Great Britain) on behalf of the Naga people and all the Indigenous Tribal communities inhabiting the North-Eastern Region who have immensely benefitted under the protective shield of the ILP-BEFR 1873 ever since its inception for the last 147 years. I also thank the Union Government of India for incorporating the ILP-BEFR 1873 into the most appropriate Act of the Constitution of India under the “Principal Citizenship Act of 1955” through the latest Amendment.
MP (Rajya Sabha)