Bill apprehension validated
BHARATIYA Janata Party chief Amit Shah’s assertion on Sunday that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will be one of its manifestoes for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections has validated that expression of strong suspicion by civil societies and opposition political parties of the proposed legislation making a comeback in one avatar or another is not unfounded. While failure to formally table the contentious Bill in the Rajya Sabha brought huge relief to the entire northeast region, the BJP national president’s unwavering stand to enact the Bill rings out the message that the NE people cannot rest in peace till the Bill issue has been buried. Amit Shah’s statement also lends substance to contention by the opposition Congress that the Union government did not tabled the Bill in consideration of the NE people’s interest or in acknowledgement of the mass movement but there were some other factors such as chaos dominating the two crucial days of Rajya Sabha’s last session and apprehension that moving the Bill will lead to imminent defeat as issues unrelated to CAB had pitched the entire opposition MPs against the ruling dispensation. That the BJP was utterly peeved over the Bill’s failure to cross the Rajya Sabha hurdle could also be gauged from Amit Shah’s supposition in his address to Assam BJP members that CAB is inevitable for economic prosperity of Assam regardless of the fact that the anti-CAB agitation got fanned from Assam to other parts of the region. It’s an irony that the BJP national president, who has been credited for bringing the party to power at the Centre, appears to have been either fed with false information about gravity of the public dissent against CAB or is simply ignoring the plight of the region’s indigenes. Rather than according importance to some jingoistic regional leaders, including Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma - a staunch proponent of CAB, the architect of BJP’s electoral triumph in the 2014 polls should take into account that its ally AGP parted ways from the Assam coalition government while some party MLAs tendered resignation to oppose the Bill.
The BJP should, at the very least, listen to the dissenting voices within its own ranks since it has chosen to shut out the criticism from civil societies, opposition parties and even allies. At the juncture, BJP national leaders should have realised that the anti-Bill rage in the region was a spontaneous reaction against the Centre’s move to put in place a law that aims to entertain entry of unaccountable numbers of foreigners whom the region’s indigenes fear would ultimately end in the NE. It is also time for the BJP to acknowledge that the mass movement against the Bill was not due to instigation by the opposition. If at all the party is so keen to justify amendment of the existing citizenship law to extend solace and privilege to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan by granting them Indian citizenship, then the ruling dispensation needs to have a firm and unambiguous stand that the proposed legislation will cause no harm to the NE indigenes. In case the Centre could boldly declare that the adopted citizens would be accommodated settlement in states other than the NE region, it could be guaranteed that the region’s indigenes will heartily welcome the move. Moreover, with Narendra Modi heralded as the only Prime Minister under whose leadership claims are being made that the northeast got special credit and all the sectors starting from roads, railways and education witnessed immense development, brought Ayushman Bharat scheme, provided free electricity, gas connections, etc., there is no valid reason for the party to prioritise appeasing the illegal immigrants just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The NE people will not complaint against the saffron party’s agenda to transform the nation into a diluted form of Hindutva if such an agenda is confined to the mainland while respecting the age-old characteristics of NE’s pluralistic society without further dilution.