Despite strong attempts by the BJP, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 lapsed in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, February 13, amid ongoing protests by the members of the house. While in Assam the lapse is being hailed, other parts of the Northeast, specially Mizoram and Manipur continue to be on the boil.
Internet services remained suspended in several parts of the Northeast on Wednesday, including Manipur and Mizoram. Despite the crackdowns by the state, sources on the ground suggest that the protests are still going strong. Speaking with NewsClick, Beewon from Manipur Students Association Delhi (MSAD) said, “We are getting some information from the state despite internet suspension. The protests are still going strong and multiple dharnas are still being carried out. Now, given the lapse of the bill, the intensity is expected to come down.”
On February 12, urging people to intensify the agitation, the Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MANPAC) - a conglomerate of over 70 civil bodies declared ‘Doomsday’. Under the supervision of MANPAC, mass agitation against the Bill continues to stir the state. As per reports, in Khurai, locals blocked the Khurai Tinsid road. The protesters burnt tyres on the road and shouted various slogans in resentment against the Bill.
Also Read: Playing With Fire: The BJP May Have to Watch the Northeast Burn
Meanwhile, as the curfew is continuing, relay hunger strikes are being staged by the Thangmeiband United Club as well as the residents of Thangmeiband. Women vendors of Bishnupur Bazaar carried out a torchlight rally in the area and also observed a night halt at the market site. Thoubal Bazaar and Thoubal Kiyam Siphai also witnessed torchlight rallies. Locals of Mayang in Imphal also held a torchlight rally, apart from trying to storm the MLA Robindro's home. Police fired tear gas shells to disperse them. People also staged a torchlight rally at Keishampat Junction and Keishamthong. People of Canchipur in Imphal West District staged a naked protest demanding the withdrawal of the Bill.
In Mizoram, former CM Lal Thanhawla sparked row when he attended an agitation programme organised by civil society groups and held a black banner which read, "Hello independent republic of Mizoram". The Joint NGO Coordination Committee also announced an ‘Independent Republic of Mizoram’. Holding placards and banners, reading ‘Hello New Christian Country’, 'Hello Independence’, etc., protesters, including school children, gathered at the City Square in Aizawl for a peaceful protest.
Political parties in the Northeast, including the BJP's allies, are opposing the Bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8. The leaders have been consistently asserting that the bill will compromise the interests of people of the region. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma went on to threaten the BJP that he will pull back his National People's Party out of the BJP-led NDA, if Rajya Sabha passed the Bill. Even the Mizo National Front (MNF), an ally of the BJP in Mizoram has vehemently opposed the bill. Last month, Chief Minister Zoramthanga had met other Northeastern political parties at a meeting convened by his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad Sangma in Guwahati to lend support to the protest against the bill. Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and his Manipur counterpart N Biren Singh met Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday and requested him not to table the Bill in Rajya Sabha.
Also Read: Citizenship Bill: Why Protests Have Spread Across Northeast
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been pushing for the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, to make illegal immigrants (Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan) eligible for Indian citizenship. This attempt by the BJP is being viewed by many as an attempt to consolidate the Hindu vote bank ahead of the general elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed it a ‘national responsibility’ to help pass the Citizenship Bill and reiterated the government’s commitment to rehabilitate non-Muslim minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in India. Modi’s statements are being seen as an attempt to fan communal tensions in the region, especially in the light that more than 40 lakh people have been excluded from the NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Assam, a major process of granting citizenship to people who had come to India prior to March 24, 1971.
However, the people of the Northeast have refused to let the communal propaganda of the BJP aimed at polarising the vote banks become a success. Over the last month, angry protestors have intensified their protests by burning effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shouting slogans against chief ministers of the Northeastern states. Given the lapse, the bill will now have to be reintroduced in the Lok Sabha, which will be possible only after the formation of the new government.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was not the only bill that lapsed today, the contentious Triple Talaq Bill was also not passed in the Rajya Sabha today, which was also the last day of the Budget Session.
Read More: Bills on Citizenship and Triple Talaq Lapse as Rajya Sabha Adjourns Sine Die