By Mrudula Bhavani
The responses sought in search of the reasons behind the rage and resistance rising against the Citizenship Amendment Bill show that the possible outcome of the passing of the Law by the BJP government in the centre would result in the vitalized resurrection of the freedom movement in the North East region. The entire region is rising up against the central government’s legislative move to welcome Hindu illegal refugees from countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh meanwhile keeping away Muslim refugees from such neighboring countries. The people of the region think that the new law is intended to spread the Hindu Nation State into a racially and geographically standing out land. They say that the refugee settlement would endanger the indigeneity of the region.
The citizenship amendment bill was passed on January seventh in the lower house of Parliament. Protests against the passing of the bill into an act are happening all over the North East region. Activists, journalists, students, protesters, women etc. are facing arrests, detention and lathi charges wherever and whenever they protest. Even ministers and legislators are joining these protests. When the question of Rohingya refugee crisis arose in the country the both houses of parliament were reluctant to welcome them saying they will spread terrorism in the country. In this complex political atmosphere student leaders and protesters talk about their movement against the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
We don’t want to happen what happened to Tripura to us- Thokchom Veewon
The protest was at Jantar Mantar. Then around 3.30 we left the place and drove to the Parliament. We didn’t disclose our plans to anyone. Two buses were carrying the protesters. As soon as we came down from the bus the police started gathering around. We had thought of a march nearer to the Parliament. We couldn’t go close to the parliament because the police was there so we decided to burn the effigies of Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh there and then. We came prepared. As soon as we did that in few seconds they started pushing us, we were shouting our slogans, then they lathi charged and six of us got injuries. An old woman from Meira Paibis (Women Torch Bearer) was mishandled by the male police and later at the police station she almost fainted. She was taken care of by lady police inside the police station. We were there around 30 minutes and then more and more police and CRPF were deployed. And we were taken in a bus to police station. We were detained till eight or nine at night. If we go back in the history, we have history of students’ movements and a popular mass struggle from the people. We have many political armed groups, but till now we don’t have a popular mass movement for independence like in Kashmir, Aazadi movement they have. So in Manipur it is more of a common struggle which include ILP movement, movement against military repression and AFSPA and all those demonic acts legitimised by the Indian Constitution.
Right now, I would say, the government’s policy of implementing CAB is not clearly a crisis for the freedom movement. Because independence movement has its ups and downs, Manipur in the 1990s and the 2000s saw the ups and now it has taken a shadow role. In 2016 we had Assam election. In the election manifesto of BJP party citizenship for Hindus from outside the state was included. In 2016 it came up in the parliament and now the 2019 election is coming. Just before that CAB is being brought up so that the BJP can polarised the people through religion. For the BJP or the Congress it is a win situation, because the bill specifically concerns the Hindus and Hindus constitute the majority vote bank in this nation. The BJP would say, if the bill is not passed, that they have tried a lot for the Hindus, the Congress did not support it so don’t vote for them vote for us. At the same time the Congress will get along the election through the rhetoric of secularism, as usual. In the Lok Sabha the Congress could have voted against the bill. They didn’t do that and chose instead to walk out. That’s how the passing of the bill was possible in Lok Sabha. It has been found that all of a sudden the BJP wants to give Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities in other countries. Then why not Myanmar? Why not the Rohingyas? I am not saying that Rohingyas or any other minorities from any other nation should be included in the bill, but if the BJP is so generous, if they are so concerned about the persecution of minorities in other countries why not the Rohingyas? Rohingyas are the most oppressed minorities in Myanmar.
Right now people of Mizoram and other states have started openly supporting independence from India. We have seen the placard saying Hello China Bye Bye India. I think it is more about alienation from the Indian state that pushes the people of the region more and more to the periphery. Throughout history we had always been in the periphery, rather marginalised, be it in economic policies or political decision making. If India is truly a federal nation, the people of Manipur, Mizoram or Assam should be able to execute its own politics. Manipur doesn’t have to run to Delhi begging the power in Delhi for the withdrawal of AFSPA. It is not for some upper caste Hindus sitting in the parliament to decide for us. What we want is if India is truly a democratic nation we want true democracy. But right now we don’t see any hope in it. If the people of North East do not want CAB it is for us to decide. If you look close at the bill it is clearly mentioned that it is only about North Eastern states. The Home minister Rajnath Singh when he gave a speech he told that this bill is applicable all over India. It is a total lie. I don’t know what to say. Look at Tripura. Tripura as an independent state had a kingdom till 1949 till it was merged into the Indian nation. Right now they are minority in their own state. Manipur has thirty lakhs population. In this ten lakhs population are outsiders. May be after some many years, in 2030 or 2040, people of Manipur would suddenly realize that the CM of Manipur is someone who is from outside of the state, and from outside of the nation. In Tripura from 1949 only two CMs were native persons of the state. All the other were Bengali or Bangladeshis from outside of the state. Right now the most persecuted native people of the entire North East is them, so we do not want that kind of situation in Manipur.
Yesterday someone from home called me up and told me that battallions of CRPF and BSF are being deployed in specific locations of Manipur. i think the bill will be passed in the Rajyasabha. if the bill is passed a more vigorous demand for total freedom from India will emerge from the entire North East region. in the last few weeks we are seeing popular mass movements by students union and civil societies demanding that they want to be an independent state if we are not able to decide our own future under the Indian state.
Citizenship Amendment Bill vs Inner Line Permit– Maibam Noor Muhammed
”Journalist Wankhemcha Kishorechandra was arrested by Manipur police under NSA just because he was criticizing the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and against the Hindutva BJP government. In Manipur the Prime Minister gave order to celebrate the birthday of Jhansi Rani Laxmi Bai. In India Jhansi Rani is considered as freedom fighter but in the context of Manipur Jhansi Rani has nothing to do with Manipur. So in Manipur people were opposing the organizers of the event. Wankhemcha was speaking in a Facebook Live video against the same celebration by the state government after which he was arrested by Manipur police. Not just Wankhemcha even my cousin Maibam Safiur Rahaman was arrested and detained in police custody for a night by Manipur police for putting dissenting voice in social media against the policy and programmes of N. Biren led BJP government in Manipur after he was issued a suo moto by the police.
Student leader Amarjit Ningthouja of Reformist Students’ Front (RSF) was also arrested in January. Lots of arrests have been happening in Manipur in the last few years of the BJP rule in Manipur. There is a cyber frisking rampage going on. Like how police officers frisk us, they are frisking us online. We can’t speak anything against the government or CM. If we are speaking up, if we are criticizing the government they will arrest us.
The national media have been reluctant or ignorant in covering things that happen in Manipur. And at this juncture, the Manipur people also have lost faith in the state media too. This emerge after how the major Manipur media house ISTV got entangled in the Kishorechandra case. It was one of the darkest moments of journalism in Manipur. Kishorechandra was working with the same ISTVwho sacked him from his job because he spoke out aginst the BJP CM.
We have demanding for the implementation of Inner Line Permit System for the protection of our indigenous people. While we are demanding ILP they are trying to impose another Act called Citizenship Amendment Bill . Indigenous people are already marginalized in our own homeland because of the massive infiltration of illegal immigrants from outside. It is clear that the central government wants to make a Hindu nation. They want to make North East a dumping ground. The Rohingyas who are also persecuted religious minority are treated as criminals. The Bill is not at all about the concern the BJP has for minorities in the neighboring countries. There is a genocide happening in Myanmar. But they didn’t help Rohingyas. They didn’t want to take them in, but they want to bring all the Bangladeshis and Pakistani Hindus. This is an election agenda by the BJP. If the Hindus are coming to India, they will get more votes. In NE region the number of Hindus is very less. In Bangladesh they have more than 13 million population. Half of the Bangladesh will disappear in water after thirty years due to global warming. Lots of migrants would be coming to India. Tripura CM Biplab Deb is a Bangladeshi. In Assam also there are Bangladeshis. Manipur is bordering with Myanmar. In the border pillar 81 was installed by Myanmar army three kilometers inside the Indian territory. People of Manipur are demanding the nation to protect the border. Villagers are complaining that they are losing their land. The Myanmar army is destroying our village and all. In fact they are selling our land. There is a valley in Manipur, Kabu valley. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave this valley to Myanmar. Then they gave Andaman and Nicobar in return.
They are not considering Manipuris as primary citizen of India. They treat us like adopted children. They want only our land, not us people. In Manipur, in North Eastern states, in Jammu Kashmir freedom movements are on going from last forty-fifty years. In order to suppress the freedom movement the draconian law Armed Forces Special Powers Act is used. In Odisha, in Chathisgarh, in Telangana, in Maharashtra and in Bengal we don’t find AFSPA. Why? That is why we say AFSPA is a racist colonial Act.
The long history of freedom movements in the NE is not addressed with due respect by the government of India at all. We have to locate this movement historically and not to some vague concerns of law and order problem. It is clear that the Indian government does not look at us a people but as things, things to be toyed around and traded and sacrificed to build an India that is only for Hindus”.