Northeast CMs soften stand on Citizenship Amendment Bill

Northeast CMs soften stand on Citizenship Amendment Bill

Most of the chief ministers of the Northeast have softened their stands on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), set to be introduced in Parliament soon. This is a departure from their earlier stands, when they unequivocally opposed the legislation granting Indian citizenship to undocumented individuals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, including Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.

Home minister Amit Shah has called for wider consultations on the Bill with several stakeholders in Delhi ahead of the Bill’s introduction in Parliament. Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sharma said as part of the tweaks, the Bill will not be applicable to areas under the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system and areas protected under the Sixth Schedule.

The Inner Line Permit is a mandatory document for Indians travelling to the states of Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh. A bill to apply the ILP in Manipur — the Manipur People’s Bill 2018 — is awaiting a nod from the President after it was passed in the state assembly

The Bill will be circulated among MPs on Friday and will be introduced next week. Despite resistance from Opposition parties, the BJP is also confident of its passage.

Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma said the Centre’s approach was positive as it initiated a wider debate by inviting several groups for consultations, while Mizoram CM Zoramthanga said since the state was outside the purview of the Bill as an ILP state, he welcomed it.

Arunachal CM Pema Khandu said he welcomed the Bill after the Centre made changes to the legislation keeping in mind the provisions of the Chin Hills Regulation 1896 and the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.

Sangma said the Centre’s consultations with over 100 organisations, 23 of which were from Meghalaya, indicated that they were willing to listen. “Each group was given an hour to discuss concerns; many voiced concerns that it will affect indigenous people. The Centre suggested measures and mechanisms to counter it,” Sangma told HT. He added that he will be in a better position to state his stand after seeing a copy of the Bill.

Manipur CM N Biren Singh said while the state does not come under the ILP, he is confident that the Manipur People Bill will be passed. “The home minister has discussed with us the details of a protection mechanism in line with the ILP for Manipur. The ILP regime will automatically keep Manipur out of CAB,” Singh told HT. “However, the exact safeguard will be revealed within a few days.”

”Our demand has been for Mizoram’s exclusion from the purview of the Bill. If our state is not included under the new legislation, it is well and good. We have no reservations on the newer version of CAB as long as Mizoram is kept outside its purview,” Mizoram CM Zoramthanga said .

Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu, who was one of the BJP CMs in the region along with Manipur CM N Biren Singh to have landed in Delhi earlier this year to express his opposition, said he was assured that the demands of his state would be met.

During the conversations, the group from Arunachal expressed its demand that the provisions of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, which regulates the provisions of the ILP, and of the Chin Hills Regulation, 1896, which empowers the Deputy Commissioner to direct a foreigner to leave the state, will have to be honoured.

“The home minister assured to all of us that the ILP regime will be honoured, and the provisions of both the regulations will be incorporated in the Bill. He told us that there will be zero impact to the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh. We welcome the Bill as our concerns were honoured,” Khandu said.

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