Aizawl: Demanding immediate scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, people in large numbers, mostly students, took out protest rallies in different parts of the state on Wednesday.
Effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Rajnath Singh were burnt by protesters to demonstrate their strong opposition to the Centre’s bid to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Spearheaded by the state’s apex student body, the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) or Mizo Students’ Federation, protest rallies were organised in all the eight districts of the state against the proposed legislation, which, according to student leaders, would bring severe demographic impact on the tiny tribal state Mizoram.
According to MZP president L Ramdinliana Renthlei, over 3,000 people took part at the protest rally in the state capital.
Many party leaders, including state education minister Lalchhandama Ralte and former Congress legislator PC Zoramsangliana also joined the rally, he said.
In Aizawl, the protest rally was organised in two directions, from Khatla junction and Zarkawt junction and culminated near Vanapa Hall.
Addressing the rally near Vanapa Hall here, the MZP president said the Citizenship Bill is harmful for a small state like Mizoram where there are over over 30,000 illegal immigrants belonging to the Chakma and Bru communities.
He said that the bill, if enacted, would be harmful for Mizoram as the Buddhist Chakma immigrants would be automatically granted Indian citizenship.
He said that the Citizenship Bill would bring a demographic and religious impact on Mizoram as there is chance of the indigenous people becoming minority in their lands if Buddhist immigrants were given citizenship.
Renthlei slammed the centre for neglecting Mizoram and paying a deaf year to the civil society groups’ plea not to pass the bill.
He said that leaders of NGO Coordination Committee, a conglomerate of all major civil societies and students, last year met officials of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and asked them to visit Mizoram, which the official failed to do so.
“The JPC did not pay due attention to our plea and ignored Mizoram as the committee skipped Mizoram in its report submitted to the Parliament last year,” Renthlei alleged.
He said that Mizoram was neglected and alienated by the Centre due to which the people of the state began to develop a feeling of separatism.
Taking strong exception to the passage of the bill by Lok Sabha on January 8 despite widespread protest in the Northeast, Renthlei warned that the Mizo youths would take up arms to fight sovereignty if the Centre continues to neglect and discriminate Mizoram.
“We still remember the Mizo uprising in 1966. Has the centre forgotten about it? We would not hesitate to take up an arm uprising and spearhead secessionist movement for our independence if the Centre goes ahead with the passage of the Citizenship Bill against the interest of the Mizo people,” he warned.
“Has the Centre forgotten the 1966 Mizoram uprising? We would not hesitate to spearhead secessionist movement if the Centre goes ahead with the passage of the citizenship bill against the interest of the Mizo people,” he said.
The MZP president also asked all the schools and students in the state to boycott Republic Day celebrations and stay away from Republic Day rehearsal.
NGO Coordination Committee chairman and Young Mizo Association (YMA) president Vanlalruata, who addressed the protest rally, said that the bill is harmful for Mizoram as it would attract illegal influx from neighbouring Bangladesh, which eventually would make the indigenous Mizos minority in their own land.
He asked the Centre to either scrap the bill or exempt the Northeast region from the Bill. “We will continue to oppose the bill till it is scrapped,” he added.
NESO finance secretary Ricky Lalbiakmawia also said that the bill, if enacted, would not only grant citizenship to the illegal Chakma immigrants but also encourage illegal influx from neighbouring countries.
Mizoram has been grappling with problems of illegal influx from neighbouring Bangladesh over the years.
While there were only 198 Chakma population in Mizoram according to 1901 census, the figure has shot up to over 1,50,000 at present.
Student leaders said the decadal growth rate of the Chakmas is beyond normal rate of human production and this clearly shows that the influx of Chakma foreigners from across the border has remained unchecked.
During the rally, protesters also passed resolutions opposing the bill and to safeguard the state against the foreigners. The resolution also stated that the Mizo people will not sit idle but fight till their last breath if the centre turns deaf ear to their plea.
Meanwhile, NGO coordination Committee and People Representation for Identity and Status of Mizoram called for a boycott of Republic Day celebrations to protest the bill.