The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 Credit: EastMojo image

Itanagar: Students representing several organisations of Arunachal Pradesh took to the streets on Monday to oppose the Central government’s proposal to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB), 2016.

The protest was organised by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) under the banner of North East Students’ Organisation (NESO). NESO is a conglomeration of several student organisations of Northeast region including the AAPSU.

The amendment brought to the Citizenship Bill in 2016 is against the Northeast and a move to gain political mileage, said AAPSU president Hawa Bagang

Students marched from Indira Gandhi Park till Raj Bhawan in Itanagar shouting slogans opposing the contentious Bill and the Central government’s decision to implement the same. They demanded that the decision be taken back, keeping in minds the interests of the indigenous population of the state and region.

Speaking to reporters, NESO’s organising secretary Pritam Bhai Sonam said that the Northeast, particularly Arunachal, is already flooded with refugees.

“We have been facing refugee problem for the past 50 years. Post the liberation war of Bangladesh, crores of refugees are being dumped in Northeast states. Now in order to accommodate them, the current government at the Centre is adopting this “poisonous” Bill. If these foreigners are accommodated in the Northeast, we wonder what will happen to the indigenous population,” Sonam said.

NESO organising secretary Pritam Bhai Sonam cautioned that the entire Northeast would witness unrest if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed

In regards to Arunachal, Sonam said the indigenous population of the state is only around 8-9 lakh. However, the population of illegal immigrants has already crossed the 6-lakh mark.

“We are not against a particular political party or religion and we are fighting for our rights. Not even an inch of land will be given to the refugees. They should go back to their respective countries or whatever places they came from,” he added.

The NESO organising secretary cautioned that entire NE would witness unrest if CAB is passed in Parliament.

AAPSU president Hawa Bagang said, “The amendment brought to the Citizenship Bill in 2016 is against the Northeast and a move to gain political mileage.”

“We are emotionally very patriotic, so if the leaders at the Centre consider themselves to be the same, then they should listen to us. The lawmakers, being Indians, should listen and make resolutions for its countrymen and not foreigners. Moreover, the ones sitting at Parliament should take decisions and make policies which are for Indian citizens and the indigenous people, not against them,” Bagang said.

The AAPSU president said the mistake which Congress made by bringing the Chakma and Hajong and the Tibetan refugees in Arunachal is now being repeated by the BJP at the Centre.

“This decision to implement CAB is a part of political propaganda and it is in turn affecting the Northeast region and its population. We don’t understand where the government intends to keep these foreigners. They have no place here in Arunachal Pradesh and the Northeast,” Bagang said.

Meanwhile, leaders of the NESO, AAPSU and other student organisations also submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi through state governor Brig (Retd) BD Mishra expressing straightforward opposition to Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).

The Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to provide citizenship to migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian extraction, was passed by the Lok Sabha in January this year.

However, stiff resistance in Assam and other northeastern states by student organisations, indigenous groups and also from BJP leaders, dissuaded the government from tabling the legislation in the Rajya Sabha.

The government has, however, listed the Bill in its items of business for Parliament’s Winter Session which began on Monday.

The session is scheduled to be held till December 13.

Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, on the other hand, is likely to sit for a special cabinet meeting on Monday to discuss the controversial Bill.

The cabinet will deliberate on the recommendations of the consultative committee on CAB set up by the state government under the chairmanship of state home minister Bamang Felix.

The committee had convened a series of meetings with legislators, political parties, students’ unions and community-based organisations to seek their views on CAB and prepare an inclusive report on the matter.

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