By Dr. Lohit Datt-Barua
I am writing this with utter dismay, concern, and sadness that in total disrespect to Indian constitution, a discriminatory bill known as the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) is being pushed down on Indian citizens. It also violates the Assam Accord of 1985 that was signed by then PM of India.
The preamble of our constitution unequivocally laid down the foundation of our Nation which is secular and equal for all citizens as it states:
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCARATIC REPUBLIC and to secure all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation”
The CAB goes in clear contrast of Article 14 and 15 of the Indian Constitution which reads:
“14. Equality before law: The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law of the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
- Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth:
(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restrictions …”
How can people of Assam, which is supposed to be integral part of India, trust anything that the central government signs or does with people of Assam? The rest of India may not understand the implication of this act to Assam and the Assamese. I am an Assamese Indian American. I love my birthplace and my language like you do yours. It is not about politics, it is about survival of Assam, the Assamese and Assamese language in the long run. All sensible citizen of India, all political leaders regardless of party affiliation, regardless of religious preferences must uphold the constitution, demand withdrawal of this act, and honor the Assam Accord that was signed by the government. Assam must not be pushed to the brink of another civil unrest that could potentially result in death and destruction by passing such an unconstitutional and politically motivated bill into law. Government must avoid that by withdrawing this bill. Else this government will be responsible for what may happen in Assam and the northeast and not the sons of the soil.
Here are my reason for Opposing the bill and urging its immediate withdrawal.
- We believe that the existing standing Citizenship Act of 1955 is adequate for protecting minorities of all faiths of other neighboring countries seeking asylum in India on political grounds. The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 seeks to redefine the base year of bona fide citizen of India spelled in the citizenship act of 1955 to be 2014 instead of 1950 – a period more than 70 years. During these 70 years, a large number of migrants of all religions came from neighboring countries seeking citizenship of beloved land and are accepted by existing Citizenship Act of 1955 without problem. But the unnatural growth in Assam compared to that in other states and well in excess of Indian average growth as evident from Indian census since 1951 caused primarily by massive stream of migrant, whether Hindus or not, from erstwhile East-Pakistan or Bangladesh has altered the very demographic composition of Assam and the native of this region have become minorities in their own land. Furthermore, for lack of assimilation by these post-independence migrants into broad Assamese culture and language the people of Assam have every reason to fear that if there is demand of state re-organized based on language or culture in future, as it happened in the past, Assam will be sub divided further, potentially eliminating Assam as a unique linguistic and cultural state. The unabated influx of migrants has already led to an identity crisis of the indigenous people of the entire reason. We already see what has happened to the state of Tripura.
- The Government of India signed Assam Accord with them Prime Minister as signatory with March 25, 1971 as the delineating date for identifying the illegal immigrants. In accordance with that Accord, Assamese people had agreed to accept a massive number of illegal immigrants since India’s independence. This agreement with the Government of India will be violated by this Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. The Assam Accord was the outcome of an agitation lasting years with the loss of 855 precious lives. The National Register of Citizens in Assam was based on agreed upon aforementioned date in the Assam Accord and led to the National Register of Citizens in Assam in 2015. The effort of creating the NRC at an enormous effort and cost to the taxpayers will also go in vain with this Citizenship Amendment Act.
- History has shown us that under the pretext of one reason or another, most significantly the erstwhile IMDT Act (1983), the rest of India failed to accept the burden of illegal immigrants and Assam solely has borne the burden of accommodating these illegal immigrants.
One needs a pragmatic analysis of the facts behind why Assam and North-East India is vehemently opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. We are urge the government to use its wisdom and not to push the Assamese people to the brink of another civil unrest with potential for death and destruction.
Dr. Lohit Datt-Barua
Dr. Lohit Datt-Barua is a retired electrical engineer, professor, consultant, local activist and author. He has lived in US for 40 years and has run for a seat in Kingwood ISD two years ago. He is an active member of Assam Association and a prolific advocate of Assam and Assamese people.