CAB not to affect Northeast’s existing privileges, clarifies Union minister
GUWAHATI, Sept 9: Union home minister Amit Shah on Monday made it clear that the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, (CAB) 2016, will not impact Article 371 of the Constitution. “Privileges enjoyed by the Northeastern states will not be affected because of CAB implementation,” Shah said.
Shah said this while speaking at the 4th Conclave of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) held here. The meeting was attended by Northeast’s chief ministers, deputy chief ministers, Member of Parliaments belonging to BJP and its allies.
“There is no connection between Article 370 and Article 371 except the numerical order,” Shah said. “While Article 370 was temporary, Article 371 is special provision and is a right of the Northeast,” he added.
He further added that the party will bring back CAB but it will not overlap Article 371 or the other existing provisions in the Northeast.
After the final NRC list in Assam was published, the other Northeastern states expressed concern that excluded people from NRC might enter their states.Allaying the fears, Shah said, “Neither the illegal infiltrators will be allowed to live here nor they will be allowed to enter other states.”
“We are going to bring CAB but the government is also going to take steps that secure the identity and culture of the indigenous people,” he asserted. The Union minister further said that the cut-off date for granting citizenship under CAB will be December 31, 2014 and not beyond that. Shah said that the Central government is going to be strict in dealing with the issues of cross border drugs smuggling, arms trafficking and human trafficking in the Northeast. He appealed the states of the Northeast to coordinate among each other for ending these menaces.
The CAB has not been consigned to oblivion and will be brought again, Shah reiterated, but sought to soothe the concerns of the Northeastern states, insisting special laws specific to the region will not be touched. Shah also asserted that the Centre intends to expel all illegal immigrants not just from Assam but the entire country.
Shah said this, while, responding to concerns voiced by chief ministers Conrad Sangma of Meghalaya, Neiphu Rio of Nagaland and Mizoram’s Zoramthanga.
Addressing the conclave, they had voiced fears about the consequences of reintroducing the CAB, as it could alter the demography of their respective states. They wanted that their states be kept out of the purview of the CAB.
Notably, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on January 8 but could not be tabled in the Rajya Sabha following outrage in several parts of the country, particularly the northeast, where the BJP’s allies led by Sangma were up in arms against it.
The Bill provided for according Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after six years of residence in India instead of 11 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do not possess any document.
“It is very clear from our side that there will be no other date and Article 371 along with the Inner Line Permits (ILP) will not be touched,” he added. Shah also asserted that the Centre intends to expel all illegal immigrants not just from Assam but the entire country.
The BJP president also accused successive Congress governments of having alienated the region from the rest of the country. “Our intention is to expel illegal immigrants from the entire country and not just Assam,” he declared. He alleged the prolonged militancy in the northeast was because the Congress hardly cared for the region.
After addressing the conclave, the BJP chief held a meeting with the chief ministers of all the eight states of the Northeast.
Speaking to journalists, finance minister and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma said Shah had addressed many concerns voiced by the chief ministers. He said one of their foremost concerns was about the Inner Line Permit.”Shah made it clear that the new CAB will ensure that its provisions do not override the 6th schedule of the Constitution,” he said, adding that it effectively meant that unless a person got the ILP or the 6th Schedule Authority allowed one to stay in a particular state, nobody from outside could go there.
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma called the meeting “very positive” where there was a convergence of view that both national and regional concerns be addressed.
“The home minister asked us to go ahead and have further consultation with local organisations and political parties so that any kind if misconception regarding the Bill can be cleared,” Sangma said. He said no deadline was set for the proposed reintroduction of the Bill. Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu said Shah made it clear that laws protecting indigenous people will not be touched.”
In fact, he said, that if needed, these local laws can even be made more strict,” the BJP leader said.Arunachal Pradesh is among the Northeastern states where an outsider is required to obtain ILP for a visit. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill will be drafted keeping in mind these issues, Khandu said.