Lessons learnt from CAB
WITH the Rajya Sabha’s last session ending without passing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the northeast people could finally breathe with some relief. However, the reprieve cannot be eternal as there is every possibility of the Union government trying to push through the proposed legislation in one way or another, especially in view of India’s present-day electoral politics centring on appeasement of the majority. While it is certain that ruling as well as opposition parties will claim credit for derailment of passage to one of the most controversial legislations, at-least from NE’s perspective none would argue that it was the spontaneous movement of the region’s masses led by deeply concerned civil society organisations that the Bill could not see the light of the day. Northeast had been under intense turmoil for the last two months following the passage of the Bill in Lok Sabha on January 8. That the Centre’s move for bringing in foreign nationals and grant them citizenship had not gone down well with the NE people was expressed in no uncertain terms when shutdown was observed and enforced against the Bill in all the seven states. It was the first of its kind agitation in the entire region in which civil societies and even politicians from the region came together to voice their stance against the Bill, which many decried as unconstitutional and smack of sectarian intent. The shutdown resulted in six persons getting injured in police firing in Tripura which sparked further outrage across the region and made the agitation spearhead in their respective states to ensure that the struggle does not end sans justice delivered to the threatened indigenes. Without a doubt, the Tripura incident led to intensification of the anti-CAB agitation and unity amongst the indigenes.
The brutal police crackdown backed by a centre-centric government made the indigenous population in the entire region realised that they too could face the same fate as that of the native Tripuris who have been reduced to minority in their own homeland. As the hue and cry among the indigenes escalated, BJP-led governments slapped sedition charges on various protesters in Tripura and Assam while here in the state curfew was imposed to suppress the movement in addition to the chief minister and few of his ministerial colleagues branding the mass movement as politically instigated. Shutdown of mobile internet data was another facet of the state government’s desperate bid to deflect sharp criticisms from different quarters against the ruling front. Notwithstanding the fact that the public concern or mass movement is genuine, these regional BJP leaders might have been under compulsion to lash out against the protesters for they understandably feared of being pulled up for questioning the premeditated move of the Centre to pass the Bill, which was vigorously pushed by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. In fact, it was the PM’s declaration at a public event in Bengali-dominated Assam’s Silchar to ensure passage of the Bill and his reiteration of the Union government’s stance during follow-up visits to Tripura, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh that not only created restive situation in the region but also witnessed audacious demands for reviewing India-NE political relation. As unity amongst the northeast indigenes against a Bill, that was perceived to have wide ramifications on the already existing indigenous population, was the main reason for the Bill to be laid to rest, at-least at the juncture, it needs no reminding that such collective stand and movement remains the only option for protecting interests, identity and existence of the native people.