CAB 2016: Adoption of foreign citizens

No doubt, India is a big country with the second largest population in the world and the vast majority of its people are Hindus. Given these facts, the NDA Government’s attempt to rehabilitate Hindu and non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan is understandable, though highly questionable. Of course, India can accommodate tens of millions of immigrants but it will wreak havoc at the regional level, particularly in the North East region, the indigenous people of which are quite distinct from the rest of India in terms of history, identity, race, culture, religion, topography, language etc, etc. The total population of the entire North East region constitutes a small fraction of the total population of India. If Hindu and non-Muslim immigrants from the particular three countries are allowed to settle in the country as is planned by the NDA Government, all the indigenous peoples of the North East would be wiped out sooner rather than later. Tripura, a small State in the North East has been already struck by the tragedy of incessant influx. Bengali immigrants have far outnumbered the indigenous people of the State and the immigrants have taken control of the State’s political power as well as economy. It was this tragic transformation in Tripura which makes all the sister States of the region hypersensitive to any issue related to influx or resettlement of immigrants. The NDA Government must have taken this reality into account before passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in the Lok Sabha. Likewise, Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya too are reeling under suffocating pressure of abnormal population growth caused by immigration, both legal and illegal. The NDA Government must not ever commit the blunder of assuming that the threat perceptions of the North East people vis-a-vis incessant influx and immigration are imaginary or unfounded.
Bangladesh shares 4,096 Kms of border with the Indian States of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. It was reported in media that the trip to India from Bangladesh is one of the cheapest in the world, costing around just Rs 2000 which includes the fee for the tour operator. As Bangladeshis are culturally similar to the Bengali people of India, they are able to pass off as Indian citizens and settle down in any part of India. Already Bangladeshi immigrants have drastically altered the demographic profile of the Northeastern States, particularly Assam. The migrant population will simply multiply if Hindu and non-Muslim people from the neighbouring country are allowed to settle in the country lawfully as Indian citizens. If the BJP-led Government is planning to counter-balance the Muslim migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan with Hindu migrants, the future of the indigenous communities of the North East can be safely assumed sealed for good. Before going ahead with the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, the Government of India must see that genuine India citizens of the North East are not wiped out by adopted citizens from Bangladesh. If New Delhi is still determined to grant Indian citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh, then keep the North East out of the Bill’s ambit. With a single Bill, the Government of India is poised to reduce the Assam Accord, the National Register of Citizens, the Inner Line Permit System, the Manipur People Protection Bill etc as dead documents. Once the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 becomes an Act, it would open a floodgate of unending immigration. Preferential treatment of Hindu immigrants is also highly questionable if India is truly a secular country. Before opening the floodgate of unending immigration, Government of India must either make arrangements to settle the Hindu and non-Muslim immigrants in other parts of the country where the immigrants would have little impact on the regional demographic profiles or keep the North East out of the purview of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. At the same time, there must a constitutional mechanism to protect indigenous communities of the North East from influx.

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