Itanagar: Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a trip to three North-eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Tripura, in the backdrop of the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, his visit was marked by widespread protests across the three states.
From showing black flags to his convoy in Assam late on Friday night to protest rallies organised in Arunachal Pradesh by the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC), and a boycott called by the Tripura Students’ Federation and the three MPs of Tripura in Agartala, people showed widespread resentment over the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Meanwhile, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA), the lone regional party of the state, called upon the people and the entire region to be prepared for the consequences that would follow once and if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is passed in Rajya Sabha in the ongoing Budget session in Parliament.
The controversial Bill seeks to grant Indian citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, who entered India till December 31, 2014 from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, after six years of continuous stay in India. It was passed in the Lok Sabha last month and is likely to come up in the Rajya Sabha next week.
Those opposed to the Bill see it as a threat to the culture, identity and language of the people of the Northeast.
Addressing a presser on Friday, PPA chairman Kamen Ringu said that the voice of the people of the region has been overheard in regards to the contentious Bill.
“I appeal the entire populace of Arunachal Pradesh in particular and Northeast in general to raise their voices against the Citizenship Bill. Once the Bill is passed in the Upper House, it will have a devastating impact on the indigenous population of the State and the region,” Ringu said.
Referring to the alleged illegal immigration issue in the state of Tripura, Ringu said, “Our people should not face the same problem which is presently being faced by the indigenous population of Tripura.”
Touching upon the issues of Chakma and Hajong refugees, Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) as well as the Tibetan refugee issue of Arunachal Pradesh, Ringu said that if the Bill gets passed there is every possibility of it overpowering the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873 and Chin Hills Regulation of 1896.
“We heartily welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to our State, however, we at the same time also hope that the BJP-led state government will initiate bold actions in regards to the Citizenship Bill and PRC issue,” he added.
Bengia Tolum, President, Arunachal Indigenous Tribes Forum (AITF) which has also been opposing the Bill, on Friday, reiterated the negative impact it would have on the indigenous inhabitants of the State.
“We are very sad to witness that besides Lok Sabha MP Ninong Ering, none of the other two parliamentarians (Kiren Rijiju and Mukut Mitthi) from our state have spoken about the Bill till now. The duo have remained mere spectators to future implications the Citizenship Bill would have in our state,” Tolum said while appealing MP Mitthi to strongly oppose the Bill in Rajya Sabha.
He further said, “We had sought his (Rijiju’s) appointment recently to apprise him about these burning issues; however, we were not given the same. He is busy attending inauguration programmes and celebrity-laden function.”
PM Modi, who is leading the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign blitzkrieg ahead of this year’s Lok Sabha election, is visiting the Northeast for a whirlwind tour of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura as part of his ten-state visit in just five days.
During his visit Prime Minister Modi inaugurated several key projects and addressed multiple rallies.