Time to talk sensibly, act swiftly
It’s hard to digest that chief minister N Biren continues to brand the mass protest against the Centre’s bid to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in the parliament as a movement instigated by rival political parties. He seems to be trying to deliberately undermining the fact that the anti-Bill wave had swept the entire northeast region with even some BJP allies either pulling out from coalition government or threatening to sever ties with the saffron party. In view of the last ditch but futile effort to table and pass the Bill in the Rajya Sabha it was evident that the NDA government was in a haste to pass the Bill. As the issue of illegal immigration has been dominating the political landscape for several years in many of the NE states, Manipur in particular, which have witnessed an influx of outsiders it would be wishful thinking that the native people would heartily welcome the fresh move to entertain entry and settlement of uncountable number of foreign nationals from some neighbouring countries. When existence is threatened due to unrestrained infiltration or survival question arises owing to demographic changes every community has the right to protect their indigenous identity, culture and traditions. It was exactly on this premise that the northeast people fiercely opposed the Centre’s move as enactment of the Bill would have unarguably paved the way to make the region the dumping ground of illegal migrants. As the NE people cutting across caste, creed or religion, raised in unison it is ridiculous to term the spontaneous uprising as politically motivated and instigated.
With the crucial Lok Sabha elections just round the corner it was obvious that the Centre’s move would be construed as playing vote bank politics and intended to polarise the people and communities. Rather than attempting to paint the people’s movement as a political ploy, it would have been more sensible had the chief minister minced no words in lashing out at the Congress party for facilitating settlement of non-natives in protected lands in the Northeast and using illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators as vote bank during the latter’s protracted rule in the region. Illegal immigration has been a major cause of concern for the NE people and this apprehension was confirmed during update of the National Register of Citizens, a Supreme Court-monitored exercise to identify genuine Indian nationals living in Assam, that exposed settlement of 40 lakh people who possessed no documents to assert their right as bonafide Indians. Presence of such a huge number of people with dubious antecedents testified that the past governments in the region did not prioritised protection of the indigenes. From the context of the Assam NRC as well as the Jiribam case where the population of non-locals has overtaken the natives, it could be safely concluded that the Congress committed the blunder of entertaining settlement of unauthorised persons in the region, though their intention was obviously based on strengthening its vote bank. Thus, it is desired that chief minister Biren cease belittling the genuine people’s movement and do his best to protect the linguistic and cultural identities of the indigenous communities of Manipur.