CAB 2016: Alienating natives & embracing foreigners

Renowned filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma has no doubt sent a very clear and loud message to the whole world that the Government of India’s initiative to resettle tens of millions of Hindu and non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in any part of India is unacceptable under any circumstances to the people of the North East in general and Manipur in particular. At the same time, it is highly doubtful if New Delhi has taken note of the message sent by Aribam Syam through his announcement to relinquish the Padma Shri Award conferred to him by the Government of India. It is highly unlikely if the statements made in public by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP President Amit Shah are any indication. On the contrary, the BJP-led NDA Government is determined to transform the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 into a statute. The BJP leadership has not been flinched a bit by the massive uproar raised by the people of the North East in every corner of the region. For too long, the North East region remained a neglected region, more or less abandoned by the New Delhi mandarins with little economic development. This is glaringly evident in the utter backwardness of the North East region as compared to other regions of the country. It is a tragedy for all the people of the North East that the Indian leaders were/are never able to see the region and her people at par with other parts of the country. This step-motherly treatment which continued for decades left millions of people disgruntled in the region and it even fuelled insurgency in some cases.
After literally abandoning the North East region to its own fate for over four decades, New Delhi started giving a certain dose of attention as India-China rivalry intensified and Myanmar moved closer to Beijing. It was only in the 1990’s that economic planners and defence analysts of the country realised the strategic importance of the North East region not only from defence perspectives but also for economic development of the country. New Delhi realised the strategic importance of the North East when it felt the need for politico-economic engagement with the South East Asian countries. It was only in the 21st century that New Delhi began some significant investments in the region particularly in road and transport sector. Finally, people in the North East felt that they were no longer second class citizens of the country but equals of other citizens of other regions. But this perception has been turned upside down by the NDA Government’s persistent and forceful drive for the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. We fear if the Bill is not withdrawn and passed in the Rajya Sabha, the whole North East will feel and be alienated from the rest of the country. Through the contentious Bill, the NDA Government has been wittingly or unwittingly promoting racism in the country. Granting or attempt to grant citizenship on the basis of one’s faith defies the very foundation of secularism. The uncanny enthusiasm to grant citizenship to Hindus and non-Muslims at the cost of alienating millions of indigenous peoples of the North East exposes a malicious, racist and sectarian attitude on the part of the Government of India, if we are not mistaken.

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