Anti-CAB launched by NESO in Guwahati. (file image)

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016 introduced and carried through the last Lok Sabha disregarded the article 14 of the Constitution of India in the eagerness of the ruling party to welcome illegal migration from three neighboring countries if the migrants were not Muslims.

Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, ready to be introduced in the current session of the Parliament, is the new avatar of the same Bill of 2016.  The Bill failed to pass through the last Rajya Sabha and hence its reintroduction this session in the strength of the Ruling party’s improved numbers in the Upper House.

The party has ignored the telltale reason that it has a serious adverse political implication for the indigenous people, the real Original Inhabitants of Assam. The Original Inhabitants have their identities in their linguistic-cultural life-practices.

The legitimization of Hindu immigrants is not just India assuming guardianship of the Hindus of three neighbouring  countries, where they are presumed to be persecuted for which no proof is required according to the ruling party, but it is an open invitation to a community with a distinctly linguistic-cultural identity who are very different from the Original inhabitants of Assam, where population composition is going adverse for the indigenous communities due to demographic influx from Bangladesh.

In fact, historically, the migration of a homogenous linguistic people from the neighboring region to the space called Assam is two centuries old. The politico-linguistic-cultural space of Assam is not imaginary but has historical background if one remembers how these people had to fight for their linguistic rights during the British regime and thereafter.

CAB is a vote-bank move of the ruling party in the name of protecting the Hindus of the neighbouring countries with complete disregard of the identity concerns of the OIs. One can say that Assam is already a mosaic but a false mosaic will not fit into it.

Allowing unabated influx from across the border of a people of particular cultural-linguistic identity will mean that in course of time the autochthons in their homeland may become a voiceless minority with a narrow political space. It seems, the historical lesson of the Assam Agitation has been ignored in service of minorities in some other countries.

On the other hand, it may be recalled that the present Government made solemn promise that the border will be sealed completely but by proposing this amendment the Government has already accepted the defeat of the purpose with the presumption that ‘illegal migrants’ will have enough opportunity to come illegally and those who are not Muslims will be allowed to remain here.

If persecution of minorities in the neighbouring countries is the reason for dilution of the Citizenship Act, the Centre could have dealt with the problem through a different route.  India does not have a Refugee Act under which such categories of shelters-seekers could have been handled on humanitarian ground.

The criterion for dealing this stream of people has to be under the UN’s charter and not under the country’s citizenship law and not by muffling the aspirations of its genuine citizens under a liberal interpretation of religious brotherhood. According to the UN charter on Refugee, a Refugee has to be defined in the following terms:

“Owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or social opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or, who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such event, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The UN definition speaks of a genuine fear of persecution under compelling circumstances for dealing with someone requiring shelter in another country. There is no red-carpet syndrome here as is seen in the proposed amendment of our Citizenship law. The Country seeks to assume moral guardianship of the minorities of the neighbouring countries on the basis of religion and not on compelling humanitarian reasons based on secular principles.

With the demography continuing to go in favour of the migrants, ambitious leadership has emerged among them with equally ambitious political agenda. And with every census, the demography is changing to the detriment of the OIs.

While, in a plural society, different communities need to live harmoniously socially, the indigenous communities can’t accept a situation where the migrants rule them. It is asking them to commit political suicide. The proposed CAB, once effected, will precisely do that. The world history has glaring examples that indigenous peoples in many parts of the world lost their space to migrants aggressively settling in their habitat. In India, Tripura is an example.

India is one nation of many national identities, and when reorganization of the states were done it was amply clear that such identities formed mostly on the basis of linguistic culturalism. Each such linguistic community considers it’s matribhasa (mother tongue) as the primary identifier of the community and they identify a geographical space as their own.

For each such linguistic nationality, their linguistic culture assumes political primacy vis a vis the people of other languages & cultures and since democracy becomes a rule of majority, they can’t accept an ‘outsider’ community turning into a majority through organized influx into their primary space, that too by means of induced motivation.

CAB is such an inducement for the Hindus of Bangladesh to settle in India. There is a cut-off date in the CAB, but rules can be amended in due course to extend the date. CAB is an invitation for the Bangladeshi Hindus to cross over to India for permanent settlement.

Harekrishna Deka

Harekrishna Deka is former DGP of Assam and a renowned critic and poet. He can be reached at: deka78@gmail.com