Assam, Tripura standing alone
Deft political manoeuvring
Assam is in flames and so is Tripura. And apart from Meghalaya, the rest of the North Eastern States may be said to be relatively quiet, thanks to some deft political manoeuvring dished out from the stable of the Union Home Ministry. In chapter 1 of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which has now become an Act, and which was passed earlier by the Lok Sabha but not tabled in the Rajya Sabha, there were no provisions for exemption and the North Eastern States stood as one against the Bill. Perhaps sensing the strong and united stand of the North Eastern States, the Union Government took a step or two back, watered down the earlier version of the said Bill and incorporated exemption clauses, such as areas coming under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution of India and areas where the Inner Line Permit System is in force would not come under CAB. Such a move, automatically left out Assam and Manipur as neither States came under the 6th Schedule of the Constitution and the Inner Line Permit System was not applicable in either. However in one deft stroke, Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced that the Inner Line Permit System would be enforced in Manipur and a gazette notification towards this effect was announced a few days later. So Manipur came under the list of States where the CAB would not be enforced, leaving Assam and Tripura alone. This was a political master stroke for with one single ball, the Union Home Ministry was able to bowl out the voice of protest in Manipur and in the process fulfil a long standing demand. Not surprisingly this went down very well with the people of Manipur, and it is on record that some over enthusiastic folks did go overboard to hail the decision of the State, best exemplified by the impromptu or otherwise Thabal Chongba all over the place.
The Manipur People Against CAB (MANPAC) did not lag behind and it was amidst the feel good atmosphere over the ILPS extension that it went ahead and announced that the protest movement against the proposal to enforce CAB in Manipur stands suspended. In one stroke, New Delhi was able to silence a vocal voice in the North East and that left Assam and Tripura alone to fight their own battle. As things have unfolded, Assam and Tripura are literally burning with thousands taking to the streets to lodge their strong stand. The stand of Assam may be better understood in the face of the fact that here is a State which has borne the brunt of large scale infiltration from Bangladesh. The Assam agitation from 1979 to 1985 resulted in the Assam Accord and all know that the agitation was against large scale infiltration. The contention of the people of Assam that CAB runs against the spirit of the Assam Accord which set 1971 as the base year for identifying the illegal immigrants can be seen in the large scale violence and protests at the said State. This is where questions have been raised against the decision of MANPAC to call it a day and again it is these questions which had prompted MANPAC to announce that the anti-CAB campaign will continue. Only time will tell how things will unfold, but it is important to remember that MANPAC launched the anti-CAB drive under the overall aegis of the North East Federation of Indigenous People (NEFIP) in the first place. The larger picture cannot be that easily shoved aside.