Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the threats upon the Assamese Community

Co-Written by Bishaldeep Kakati and Pranjit Das


There was a time when the tales of the Assam Agitation were simply a part of history, for all those who were born in the post Assam Agitation era. But as the common quote itself says, “History repeats itself”, hence it seems that even something similar to Assam Agitation is currently lingering in the ambience of the beautiful state of Assam. Massive protests and agitations, numerous slogans, thousands in the road, curfew being imposed, internet services being cut off, deserted roads, many being killed and injured etc altogether give an impression that probably Assam is witnessing the second Assam Agitation in action. However amidst the unrest that is prevailing around the state, regarding the Act, we need to analyze how the same is going to adversely affect the state of Assam at large.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 which amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 was recently passed in the lower house of the Parliament and subsequently signed by the honourable President of India, turning it into an Act, without giving due importance to the interests of the Assamese community. Though the Act is regarded by many as unconstitutional, still the BJP led government is of the opinion that the same is not unconstitutional and is completely based on humanitarian grounds, which would not affect the rights of the common citizens. However, the situation is not exactly the same when you relate the Act and bring it into consideration with the state of Assam.

The history of Assam Agitation depicts that after 6 long years of protest, with the sacrifice of 855 martyrs, the ‘Assam Accord’, which is regarded as the lifeline of the community was signed by the Government of India. The Accord contains many clauses mainly for protecting the interests of the indigenous people, but out of many such clauses, people of Assam have always kept on fighting for the implementation of clause V and VI of the Accord, which talk about making the state free from illegal immigrants and providing constitutional safeguards to the native people respectively. However, when the newly passed Act would provide Indian citizenship rights to those religiously persecuted individuals from other countries (as mentioned in the Act), they would have the opportunity to easily come to Assam via the rights guaranteed under article 19(1)(d) and 19(1)(e)of the Indian Constitution which speak of right to move freely throughout the territory of India and the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India respectively. Therefore, when that would happen, it would directly violate clause V of the Assam Accord, plus when more and more people would come to Assam, it would create issues of employment, issues of land; issues of existence etc and in that process, the indigenous Assamese would lose their rights in their own land. And thus, we cannot even directly deny the occurrence of a scenario, where people of Assam might be made slaves in their own land. Hence the Act is a threat to the Assamese Community.

Moreover, we are all aware of the fact that a community thrives only when its language, literature and culture remain intact. But when more and more of these illegal immigrants would come to Assam, they would bring with them their own language, literature and culture and might start imposing their characteristic features upon the Assamese community by being the majority, and when that would happen, slowly the unique language, literature and culture of Assam would simply lie in a coffin in the graveyard. And that would mean the Assamese community turning into minorities in their own land, something similar to what happened in Tripura. In fact, it pains the heart of every Assamese to imagine a scenario in the near future where these illegal immigrants might turn the state of Assam into their own land discarding the indigenous people of the state. Therefore this is another reason as to why the act is a threat to the Assamese community.

Furthermore, more and more people coming to Assam would also mean increase in the demand of everything in the state and this might also have adverse impact upon the economic conditions of the State. Thousands fleeing to a particular state might also reduce the per capita income of the state, and along with this, when a community would have to sacrifice its basic necessities and comforts of life, only for the benefit of some illegal immigrants, then the community would slowly feel suffocated and if the illegal immigrants turn out to be the majority in comparison to the native individuals, then that community would simply remain as a tale in the pages of history. And that is another reason why the Act is a big threat for the Assamese community.

In fact, the Act says that all those religiously persecuted individuals who have come to India till 31st December 2014, would be given Indian citizenship rights. But nowhere in the Act, there is a process for identification of an individual who has come to India on or before 31st December 2014. Thus this means that a person who would come to India even in 2020 can acquire Indian citizenship rights simply by saying that he came to India on or before the aforesaid date, since there is no identification process. And hence the provision itself is self explanatory to the fact that the Act is quite dangerous.

Added to this, the BJP government also has betrayed the Assamese Community in the sense that it promised the people of Assam to make the state free from illegal immigrants and to properly implement the Assam Accord. However, the government by passing the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 not only nullified the entire process of NRC but also is trying to make the Assamese community suffer in their own motherland. Although the respected Home Minister of India is keen to implement the clause VI of the Assam Accord, but it still perplexes everyone to the fact as to how that would help the community especially when the significant clause V of the Assam Accord is violated by passing the Act.In fact, when many states of India have already stated that they would not accept the Act, or the government of India making it clear that the Act’s effect would not fall on states having Inner Line Permit, it still baffles everyone to understand: why the government of Assam is still silent on the Act?

However in the longer run, it would be really necessary for the Assamese community to somehow nullify the impact of the Act upon the state, or it would be in complete disarray. But the bigger question that still lingers around is: When the government would wake up to hear the voices of the people and come up with better Acts for the indigenous people?

Bishaldeep Kakati and Pranjit Das are political commentators



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