Citizenship Bill: the concerns behind Mizoram’s strong protests

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Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Citizenship Bill

Mains level: Issues with the Citizenship Amendment Bill


News

Context

  • Among various NE states where protests have broken out over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Mizoram witnessed massive amongst them.
  • These came into focus particularly because of photos, widely circulated on social media, that showed protesters with posters that proclaimed “Hello China, bye bye India”.
  • This protest was organised by the influential Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP).

What the Bill says

  1. The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, relaxing the citizenship eligibility rules for immigrants belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
  2. Read with various other provisions, the cutoff for eligibility becomes December 2014.
  3. Various groups in the NE have protested on grounds of its potential impact on the region’s demography, and questioned its constitutionality as it grants citizenship on the basis of religion.
  4. For protesters in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura, the concern is about Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.
  5. The Assam Accord, protesters in that state point out, lays down 1971 as the cutoff for acceptance as citizens; the NRC is being updated based on this cutoff, which does not differentiate on the basis of religion.

Concerns of Mizoram

  1. In Mizoram, the concern is not about Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh but about Chakmas, a tribal and largely Buddhist group.
  2. The Chakmas are present in parts of the Northeast, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, with which Mizoram shares an international border.
  3. While Christians form 87% of Mizoram’s 11 lakh population (2011), Chakmas number about 1 lakh.
  4. Certain sections in Mizoram blame Chakmas for illegal migration from Bangladesh, which the community denies.
  5. The state has seen ethnic violence, with instances of arson, names of Chakmas being struck off voters’ lists, and denial of admission to Chakma students in college.

Data on Chakmas

  1. The apex students’ body Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) and the YMA, which are leading the current agitation, have often cited figures they attribute to the Census.
  2. In 1901, there were only 198 Chakmas in Mizoram and by 1991 it was over 80,000. The growth rate is far more than normally possible.
  3. This proves their constant influx from Bangladesh.
  4. Chakma activists cite a 2015 report submitted by the government of Mizoram to the NHRC.
  5. The veracity of the Census figures between 1901 and 1941 cannot be ascertained as the same are not available with the Census Directorate, Mizoram,” the then state Deputy Secretary (Home) wrote in the report.
  6. The report cites Census data that puts the Chakma population at 15,297 in 1951 and 96,972 in 2011.

Its Mizos Vs Non-Mizos

  1. Mizos clearly identify the Chakmas as ‘non-Mizo’.
  2. Radical groups often make calls to expel them from Mizoram as they were considered illegal immigrants.
  3. Their large-scale migrations having taken place in 1964 (caused by inundation of their land due to the damming of the Karnaphuli river for a hydro-electric project in Bangladesh) and 1980-4 (caused by insurgency in the Chittagong Hill Tracts led by the Hills Peoples’ Movement of Bangladesh).
  4. Nor did the Chakmas want to identify themselves as Mizo.
Citizenship and Related Issues
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