Citizenship Bill: Why Northeast Protests Spell Trouble For BJP
The Bharatiya Janata Party risks losing all the gains it made in India’s northeast, crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill has turned the region angry. Curfew was imposed in Manipur, protests rocked Assam and other states. The bone of contention are provisions in the bill that would allow Hindu, Parsi, Christian, Jain, Buddhist or Sikh immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to become citizens of India if they arrived before 2014.
The omission of Muslims and the restriction of countries to just three were hotly debated before the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. It is now pending before the Rajya Sabha. In the Northeast, the concerns differ.
“The fear is that you are going to be overrun by illegal immigrants,” said Karma Paljor, editor-in-chief, EastMojo.com.
It is this fear that has led to chief ministers of northeastern states, including those from the BJP, demanding the bill be pushed back. Even the son of renowned singer Bhupen Hazarika, who was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously, said protesting against the bill was more important than the honour to his father.
That spells trouble for the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha election. More so after losses in three heartland states. The region sends 23 parliamentarians. The party managed to make unprecedented gains in the region over the last few years ousting the Congress. The BJP, formed governments independently or with allies or enjoys their support at the national level. All of these allies are now protesting against the bill.
“You are hitting the constituencies of your allies and you expect them to support you?” asked Northeast expert Sanjoy Hazarika. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to assuage concerns, Hazarika believes it’s too late.
The problem is that there has been no real dialogue. Even the prime minister’s statements haven’t cut ice because the situation is so far gone against the notion of this bill.Sanjoy Hazarika, Northeast Expert
The anger has been simmering since the implementation of the National Register of Citizens, the so-called list of genuine Indian citizens in Assam. It spilled over with the Citizens Amendment Bill.
The prime minister has reached out to the Northeast but his efforts can be undone with one step. That is clearly happening on the ground.Karma Paljor, Editor In Chief, EastMojo.com