Different opinions on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016

Oinam Nabakishore Singh
After his announcement to return the prestigious Padmashri to the Union Government in protest against the proposed enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, Shri AribamShyam Sharma, renowned filmmaker and musician, said, “The issue of Citizenship Amendment Bill is very important. There is threat to the small indigenous people of Manipur. We should not leave such important matter to the government and MLAs alone. It is time for everyone to come forward and fight together against the Bill.”
The Peoples’ Convention on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, organised by Peoples’ Alliance Manipur (PAM), a conglomerate of various civil society organizations in the state on 9th February, 2019 has declared a total shut down on February 11 starting from 5 am until 5 pm of February 12 to oppose the contentious Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Shri Khaidem Mani Singh, Sr. Advocate and acting Chairman of Manipur Human Rights Commission, while participating at the “Discussion Hour of ISTV”, Imphal on 6th February, 2019, asserted that the State Assembly of Manipur cannot discuss anything on the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 passed by the Lok Sabha as that discussion in the Assembly would be illegal. To back up his statement, Shri Mani quoted Article 258(2) of the Constitution of India-”A law made by Parliament which applies in any State may, notwithstanding that it relates to a matter with respect to which the Legislature of the State has no power to make laws, confer powers and impose duties, or authorize the conferring of powers and the imposition of duties, upon the State or officers and authorities thereof.” The provisions in this article of the constitution has nothing to do with discussion of any issue including legislation by the Parliament on any subject or item included in the Union List by a State Assembly so long as no legislative action is taken on that subject or item. Further, the State Assembly is competent to adopt any resolution on any subject or issue and convey that resolution to the appropriate authority to express its views. Shri Khaidem Mani Singh, who is a learned advocate, must check facts before concluding that it was illegal to discuss the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 in Manipur Assembly. All political parties except the ruling BJP have been demanding convening of a special session of State Assembly to discuss the controversial bill. The leaders of the political parties are knowledgeable, and they know legality or otherwise of their demands. Article 246 of the Constitution of India divides the legislative powers of the Parliament and State Assemblies by keeping items or subjects in three Lists- List I(Union List), List II(State List) and List III(Union List). In case of List I and List II, the legislative power is exclusive for the Parliament and State Assemblies respectively. The present Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 is concerned with citizenship of India and the subject-matter appears at entry number 17 of the List I-Union List and the Parliament has exclusive power to enact law on citizenship. Further Article 11 of the Constitution also confers power on Parliament to legislate on acquisition and termination of Indian citizenship. In such arrangement of division of power to enact laws, the states of the Union have little say in legislation of 97 items included in Union List except through Members of Parliament(MP) representing the state.
Manipur has only two MPs in Lok Sabha and one MP in the Rajya Sabha.It can’t influence the Parliament significantly in legislations, which will have their ramification for the state and its people. Bigger states with more population having more MPs have larger say in the Parliament. Smaller states are at a disadvantage in many ways as the MPs representing them will get lesser chance to participate at discussion in the Parliament.
In the United States of America(USA), every state has two Senators in the Senate irrespective of population while the number of Representatives in the House of Representative depends on the population of each State. USA has more federal character than India. Now, most of the indigenous people in the states of the North-East India are protesting against the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. Civil society organisations in Nagaland, supported by Naga People’s Front, has called bandh throughout Nagaland on 11th February, 2019 in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. When Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister arrived at Guwahati and Agartala, he was greeted by black flags and black balloons. Various indigenous groups are expressing apprehension of marginalization, loss of culture, identity, language, economic opportunity and political space to the migrants coming from Bangladesh. The anguish and fear of the people in this region stems from the helplessness when the Parliament could pass the Bill through the voting in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The voice of protest and dissent of the people of the North East do not get mainstream media attention and national leaders. In order to convince the national leaders of various political parties, students and political leaders of Manipur rushed to Delhi on the need to prevent passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill by the Rajya Sabha. In the event of final enactment of the Bill by the Parliament, people of the North-East are likely to be alienated. There are even voices from some quarters demanding pre-merger status of Manipur, which can have serious ramifications.
What are the possible ways to bring the state governments on board when Parliament comprising of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. One possible way is to expand the scope of Inter-State Council so as to have a compulsory mechanism to elicit the views of the states on legislations, which are likely to have serious implications. In the present instance, there is little reaction from states which are away from Bangladesh border as the maximum impact of illegal migration is felt in the North-East states.
The state government of Manipur led by Shri N. Biren Singh, Chief Minister has been demanding from the Union Government for insertion of a special clause in the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 in order to exempt the state from the purview of the Bill. This demand and assertion are found in the local media as per the statements made by the Chief Minister and spokesperson of the Government from time to time. However, it cannot be confirmed if the State Government of Manipur has written to the Union Government with such demands.
In a function of the Fishery Department on 8th February, 2019, the Chief Minister of Manipur said that his government was against the Citizenship Amendment Bill and he was with the people of Manipur. The question to be asked from the Chief Minister is whether the state Government of Manipur has written to the Union Government opposing the CAB. Political rhetoricare, in fact, far from reality.
On 9th February, 2019, reaffirming the BJP-led NDA government’s intention to pass the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government would ensure that the Bill does not cause any harm to Assam and other parts of the Northeast, while addressing a public rally at Changsari near Guwahati.
In spite of the protests of people of the North East, the Union Government is firm in its commitment to the passage of controversial Citizenship(Amendment) Bill. In case the Bill is not tabled before the Rajya Sabha on 12th February, 2019 as Supplementary Bill, the Union Government may resort to the route of ordinance in order to fulfill its commitment to the illegal migrants belonging to the six religions of Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Budhism, Parsi and Christianity. Ultimately, it is the politics that is overriding any decision making in the country.
Views expressed are personal

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