The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) issue through not considerably highlighted in the recent Assembly elections in three northeastern states — Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya — it remains vigorous in the region even after over three years of passing the law and the on-off agitations against it.
However, some local parties including the influential tribal-based Tipra Motha Party (TMP) and the ruling BJP’s ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura during the election campaign in Tripura highlighted the CAA issue.
The TMP, which has been demanding the upgradation the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) into a full-fledged state or a separate state under Article 2 and 3 of the Constitution, promised to pass a resolution against the CAA within 150 days if the party comes to power in Tripura after the February 16 Assembly poll.
The TMP, headed by former royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman, for the first time fielded 42 seats in the February 16 elections and secured 13 seats, out of 20 tribal reserve seats.
After the erstwhile Tripura Upajati Juba Samity (constituted in 1967), the TMP is the first tribal based party which won so many seats in the state assembly polls and became the second single largest party after the ruling BJP.
Besides the TMP, IPFT, the All Assam Students Union (AASU), the North East Students Organisation (NESO) and several other organisations along with the Congress and the CPI-M led Left parties are strongly opposing the CAA.
The leaders of AASU and NESO said that as their organisations are apolitical bodies. They did not highlight the CAA issue in the recent assembly poll. Also, the Congress and the CPI-M largely remained silent on this issue.
Before the polls, the TMP chief while announcing the party’s 15-point agenda — Mission 15 for 150 days — for the Assembly elections said: “We want people irrespective of any religion and caste to live in Tripura. We will pass a resolution against the CAA.
“In one country, there cannot be two laws, similarly, one country cannot have a law which bars Muslims, Hindus, tribals and others.”
Deb Barman, who was the president of the Tripura Pradesh Congress, quit the party in 2019 after differences with the Central party leaders over CAA. He also filed a case in the Supreme Court against the CAA.
Deb Barman’s father Kirit Bikram Debbarman was the Congress MP from Tripura and his mother Bibhu Kumari Devi was a minister in the Congress led coalition government (1988-1993).
The AASU, the NESO and the TMP had also earlier filed cases against the CAA in the Supreme Court.
Talking to IANS, NESO chairman Samuel B. Jyrwa said that though they did not make the CAA an issue in the recent elections, they would fight against the law both on the ground and in the courts.
The influential AASU and the NESO on December 11 last year observed the third anniversary of the passage of the law in Parliament as a ‘black day’ across the northeastern region.
The NESO, which is a conglomerate of eight student organisations of seven northeastern states including the AASU, has been spearheading the agitations across the region since the BJP-led Central government moved the law in Parliament in November-December 2019.
The NESO chairman told IANS: “The observation of ‘black day’ is to give a message to the Central government that we are against the CAA and also at the same time to remind our people of yet another political injustice that the government perpetrated on the indigenous peoples of the northeast.”
Assam was the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests in 2019 with five persons killed in firing and clashes during the agitations.
Saying that they would continue agitations against the CAA, AASU president Utpal Sharma said they would not accept the CAA as it is “against the indigenous people and genuine citizens of India”.
The National People’s Party (NPP) and most of the local parties in Meghalaya are strongly opposing the CAA but the parties did not make it a key issue in the February 27 assembly election.
A leader of the NPP said that when the Union government can repeal the farm laws, why is it not scrapping the CAA even as the many parties and organisations in the entire northeast are protesting against the law.
In an all-party meeting called earlier by the Central government, NPP’s Lok Sabha member from Meghalaya Agatha Sangma had demanded the repeal of the CAA, the NPP leader said.
Former Union Minister Agatha Sangma is the younger sister of NPP’s national president Conrad K. Sangma.
According to the experts, the CAA is the first legislation to offer citizenship on the basis of religion leading to widespread protests against it in different parts of the country, specially in the northeast.
The Central government had earlier announced that the CAA would not apply to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) enforced and the Tribal Autonomous District Council (TADC) governed areas.
The northeastern states have ten TADCs. Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram have three TADCs each and Tripura has one such tribal autonomous body under the sixth schedule of the constitution.
An apex body of over 17 organisations — Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisations (CoMSO) — had been spearheading a strong agitation since 2019 for the introduction of ILP in the remaining parts of Meghalaya as the regulation now in forced in the three TADCs in the mountainous state.
“Even though the Meghalaya Assembly had unanimously adopted a resolution on December 19, 2019, the Union Home Ministry is yet to take appropriate steps to enforce ILP in the remaining parts of Meghalaya,” a CoMSO leader told IANS
The anti-CAA protests had first started in Assam, parts of West Bengal and other northeastern states in 2019 and continued till 2020 before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At least five persons were killed in the protests against the CAA in Assam, which also witnessed large-scale violence and imposition of curfew for several days.
The CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslim minorities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians — who have migrated from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, after facing faith-based persecution.
It was passed by both the Houses of Parliament and given Presidential assent in December 2019.
However, rules under the CAA are yet to be framed.
(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)