NEW DELHI: The government is trying to alter the demographic profile of the Northeast by "dumping" outsiders in the volatile region under the garb of the citizenship bill, a Lok Sabha member from Manipur alleged on Friday.
Lorho Pfoze of the Naga People's Front (NPF), which is in alliance with the BJP in Manipur, cautioned the Modi government against passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) in its current form and asked him to pay heed to emotions and sentiments of the people of the northeast.
"The Union government views the northeast as a region which harbours a lot of discontent against the country, particularly because it has not blended with mainland India.
This is why we think that all outsiders would be dumped in the region under the garb of CAB," Pfoze, who represents outer Manipur constituency, told PTI.
The CAB was introduced in Parliament prior to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but got lapsed after it could not be cleared in Rajya Sabha.
It is now likely to be tabled in Lok Sabha on December 9 and taken up for discussion and passage the next day.
If passed by Parliament, it will be the first legislation under which nationality will be granted on the basis of religion.
Granting citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Christians, escaping persecution was an election promise of the BJP in 2014 and 2019.
The bill has been opposed by several opposition parties with the Congress threatening to go to Supreme Court to challenge the proposed legislation.
Pfoze said an all-party meeting was recently held over the matter and the clamour raised by the people from the northeast against the bill had coerced Union Home Minister Amit Shah to give an assurance that special arrangements would be made for some northeastern states so that they do not get impacted by the CAB.
However, the MP said there was no clarity from the Centre on the issue.
"Home Minister Amit Shah had told us that there would be special arrangement for states like Manipur which he would announce in his speech when the bill is tabled in Parliament. There is no clarity yet," he said.
The 59-year-old lawmaker further said that despite the assurance, there remains a lot of uncertainty about the Modi government's intentions especially after the way it abrogated the provisions of Article 370 and bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
"There is a lot of uncertainty looking at the way the government handles critical subjects. Look at the way Article 370 was abrogated. Until the day the special status was revoked and the bill brought in Parliament, everything seemed normal. The Governor had said that they will not tamper with the special status of the state, but what happened on August 5 was surprising," Pfoze said.
His state of Manipur has witnessed the most intense protests against the CAB with people demanding that it either be rolled back or amended.
While the Centre has said that states with 'Inner Line Permits' - an official travel document issued by the central government to enter the respective state - will not be impacted by the CAB, people of Manipur are concerned as there is no ILP there.
"Manipur, interestingly, has autonomous district councils but is not covered within the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution that protects the administration of tribal areas. People are much concerned over the bill as it does not even have an ILP," he said.
On Shah's statement in Parliament that the National Register of Citizens would be implemented across the country, Pfoze said in the case of Manipur, the cut-off date should be 1971 since Muslim infiltration in the rural belts of the state is a serious issue.
He further advised Modi not to "suppress the people of any region as attaining national ambition is possible only if proper care of regional aspiration is ensured".
"The prime minister has been talking about national ambition and regional aspirations. So, in my opinion, regional aspirations should be taken care of first and only then can true integration of the nation can be ensured," he said.