Perhaps fearing that it is losing popularity, the NDA government is blundering into one reckless populist gamble after another. A case in point is the passage through Lok Sabha of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which may be intended to make Bengali Hindus look favourably on BJP. The bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus and other minorities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan (but excludes Muslims), has triggered vigorous protests in Assam and other northeastern states.
AGP has broken off its alliance with BJP in Assam, and Assamese intellectuals and civil society are in ferment. In fact, several BJP legislators in the north-east too have opposed the bill on the grounds that it would legitimise the presence of Bengali-speaking refugees in their states. Several constituent parties of BJP’s North-East Democratic Alliance have urged Union home minister Rajnath Singh not to go ahead with the bill. If BJP wants to establish a firm beachhead for itself in India’s border regions in the north-east, then this bill is evidently misfiring.
There’s no denying that the north-east’s ethno-religious make up is extremely complex. It’s also true that the region has faced the brunt of waves of migration from erstwhile East Pakistan and then Bangladesh. The anti-foreigner agitation in Assam eventually led to the inking of the Assam Accord which laid down March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for absorbing migrants. But the Amendment Bill contradicts this by making December 31, 2014 the cut-off. It also flagrantly violates the constitutional tenet of secularism by making religion a criterion for citizenship. BJP shouldn’t have stirred the hornet’s nest here. The region can easily slip back into separatist turmoil which it is just leaving behind. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill must be put on hold.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
via TOI Blog
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