Amid turmoil over Citizenship Amendment Bill 2008 across Northeast, the decision of central cabinet to amend Article 280 of Indian constitution seemingly the extension of the ambit of financial resources to the autonomous district councils of Tripura has appeared to be an instrument to cease the tension. Terming it as landmark move to amend the constitution, pro-BJP tribal leaders of Tripura affirmed that it was a game changer which would significantly increase the financial resources and administrative powers of the autonomous councils in VI Schedule areas of Northeast. A fortnight after agitation across the region sponsored by Northeast Students Organisations (NESO) against the citizenship amendment bill to provide shelter to the minority people belong to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Parsis coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There were enough reasons to oppose the move by the citizen of Northeastern states both tribal and non-tribal, as the region is already flooded with illegal Bangladeshi nationals. The opposition of the bill was not that much strong in western region of India only because there was no phenomenal illegal migration from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The religious divide between Hindus and Muslims has been wide over last few decades in Northeastern states. Bordering parts of Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and a few patches of Nagaland have been flooded with Bangladeshi migrants, which are not only sharing the resources of aborigine population, also inflicted to social crime, influence the local market and economy and over occupying the land mass in Northeast. When the region is striving hard to get industrialisation at convincing scale taking the advantage of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s development programs, the move of passing citizenship bill in the parliament is appeared as contrast to the mission.
A large section of Northeast became unhappy with Modi because in one side it is saying NRC of Assam, which has been demanding to force in other states of the region and country as well to identify illegal migrant. On the other, by adopting the citizenship amendment bill, the government wanted to legalise infiltrators of minority Hindus of Bangladesh that made people believe the central government is trying to do Hindu politics against the fundamental spirit of Indian constitution. Unlike other states, BJP’s ally in Tripura government IPFT has also opposed the citizenship bill and favoured NRC along with other tribal parties and main opposition CPI (M). Meantime, adoption of constitution amendment bill to offer more power to tribal autonomous district councils and re-phrasing the name of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council to Tripura Autonomous Territorial Council made all of the parties speechless. While CPI (M) and INPT said it was not enough, and inadequate to empower autonomous tribal councils, BJP termed it as victory of the tribal sentiment suppressed for many decades. The IPFT ally of BJP and the member of NEDA though welcome the decision, yet sought alter the word Tripura with Tipra to recognise the sentiment of the tribal populations.
Besides, the amendment of constitution to insert State Finance Commissions in the states of Meghalaya, Mizoram , Assam and Tripura, it would also provide for transfer of power on 30 subjects to the ADCs including PWD, Health and Family welfare, Forest, Public Health Engineering , Urban Development, Food and Civil Supply etc. A major beneficiary of this transfer will be the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territorial Council and Dima Hasao Autonomous Territorial Council in Assam. Apart from this, the amendments will provide for elected village and municipal councils, thus strengthening democracy at the grassroot level. Economic plans will also be prepared by the rural and urban bodies in keeping with the realities of the situation. In regard to women empowerment the amendment will lead to reservation of one third of the seats in village and municipal councils for women in district councils of Assam Mizoram and Tripura. There will also be at least two nominated women members in the district councils. A duly constituted state election commission will hold periodic elections in the district councils, village councils and municipal bodies. A significant point is that Meghalaya has been kept out of the purview of the elected village Panchayats and municipal councils.
Though political movement against the citizenship bill lost its momentum, the protest has been continued in Tripura demanding the government to step back from the move to allow foreigners to settle in Northeast, which has been a threat for the indigenous people of the region. Alongside the tribal regional parties and social organisations, Tipra Academicians’ Forum (TAF) expressed deep regrets for the Parliament (Lok Sabha) lending a deaf ear to the voice of the indigenous people of North East India. TAF General Secretary Abhijit Debbarma opposing the bill here alleged that the voice of the indigenous people of Tripura and North East India is being suppressed once again in the democratic setup that favours the majority of the population. TAF also condemn the police firing at the unarmed indigenous people of Tripura who protested democratically against the citizenship bill on January 8 at Madhabbari-Dasaram in West Tripura. They demanded centre should withdraw the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 respecting to the sentiment of the people of the region.
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