At a time when the BJP-led NDA Government is gearing up to get the Citizenship Bill passed, Meghalaya Government Deputy Chief Whip Sanbor Shullai has submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the Bill.
It may be mentioned that BJP is also a partner in the NPP-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) coalition Government.
The MDA Government has made its stand clear that it would never support the Bill.
While the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha recently by voice vote the Bill is yet to get the Rajya Sabha nod.
MLA Sanbor Shullai, who is also the Chairman of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, Meghalaya Legislative Assembly & Chairman Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., in the memorandum (dated January 11, 2019) stated that he is deeply disappointed at the recent amendment brought in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.
He stated the amendment brought to the Bill has “triggered a widespread negative sentiment amongst the people of the Northeastern States”.
On January 8, 2019 a 11-hour banch was called by the North East Students’ Union (NESO) across the region which stalled the normal life in the Northeast. Massive protests are still going in across Assam.
“The Bill will further aggravate the prevailing problem of influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, which the State (Meghalaya) has long been grappling with since independence,” Shullai stated, adding, “The Bill undermines the ongoing updation of 1951 NRC which like the Assam Accord also uses the 24 March 1971 cutoff date to determine the list of Assam Citizen.”
The South Shillong MLA also stated that Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will nullify the objective of the NRC as well as the foundation of Assam Accord as it has a cutoff date of December 14, 2014.
It may be mentioned that Meghalaya shares an international porous boundary of approximately 443 km with Bangladesh.
The people of Meghalaya fear that the Bill will irrevocably dilute the strength of the indigenous population, stated Shullai.
He also stated that implementation of the Bill will adversely affect the tribal belt of Meghalaya wherein the people are socially and economically backward compared to other neighbouring States and the same would threaten their peaceful existence.
“The Bill will further encourage illegal influx to the State of Meghalaya who will misuse the law to obtain citizenship in the country,” he added.
Stating that a large number of Bangladeshi nationals have already illegally entered the State in the past several decades, Shullai feared that “more would come and seek to stay here and take refuge under the Bill, in the process causing a further damage to the State’s demography and reduce the indigenous communities into a minority”.
He also stated: “Furthermore, the State of Meghalaya and Northeast as a whole do not have proper international boundary fencing or demarcations and many boundaries of the state are easily accessible by Bangladeshi illegal migrants.”
The Bill will make “illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion” as it is difficult to identify people on the basis of religion. “This may violate Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees right to equality and the bill may be deemed unconstitutional,” added Shullai.
Shullai also observed: “The proposed implementation of the Bill has caused widespread resentment amongst the people of my State and Northeast as a whole and as such has made me reconsider my allegiance with the party and further the bill was passed (in LS) not taking into consideration the plight of the people of the Northeastern States and this shows negligence of the national party towards the people of the Northeastern States.”