Although the government indicated that the rules for implementing the CAA will be framed after the Covid booster dose drive is over, there could be additional delays as the issue has been resolved by Supreme Court. More than 200 lawsuits have been filed in the apex court challenging the controversial law. In January 2020, the court refused to abide by the law.
Now, the highest court will hear on October 31 the constitutional effect of the CAA seeking to grant citizenship to non-Muslim migrants fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghans who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
An important bottom line is that the court can conduct separate hearings regarding Assam and Tripura, where the citizenship row has a different meaning.
The law, soon after its passage, caused unrest in the Northeast mainly because local organizations fear the CAA will create a demographic imbalance in the region. They cite Tripura as an example where indigenous communities were reduced to a minority due to a large wave of Hindus from neighboring Bangladesh.
The anti-CAA movement received a new impetus after the Northeastern Students Organization (NESO), the regional umbrella organization for all student wear, last month organized protests in all state capitals.
While most petitioners argue that the CAA violates Article 14 (equality before the law), it ensures equal protection by law to any person and not just citizens, those from the Northeast for that the revised citizenship law will make matters worse for states like Assam and Tripura, which have been shattered by the exodus from Bangladesh.
According to the All Assam Association of Students (AASU), one of the petitioners, the CAA contradicts the 1985 Assam Pact because it provides that foreigners who enter the state after March 24, 1971, regardless their religion, must be expelled.
CAA is also contrary to the provisions of Immigration (Deportation from Assam) Act, 1950gives special powers to deport migrants “to the detriment of the interests of the Indian public” or “any tribe scheduled in Assam”.
In addition, AASU argued that in the 2005 case against the now invalidated Illegal Migrants (Court Decision) Act, the apex court recognized illegal immigration as ” acts of aggression from the outside”. It also notes that the “duty of the Union”, as stated in Article 355, is “to defend the States against external aggression and internal disturbance”.
The court has struck down The IMDT Act was unconstitutional after hearing a petition filed by Sarbananda Sonowal, who was then an MP for Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), now a junior partner in the BJP-led coalition government in Assam.
Another controversy is that the CAA would violate international law such as Declaration of the United Nations on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, 2007. It also places an obligation on States to protect these rights.
Fantasy and reality
BJP National President JP Nadda said the Northeast has now become “insurgent-free” with the signing of various agreements with the region’s militant groups over the past few years. He made the remark during a recent visit to Nagaland, a state awaiting resolution of a decades-old insurgency.
Needless to say, in 2015 the BJP-led central government signed a ‘Framework Agreement’ with the Naga rebels with much fanfare and triumphantly declared that they were serious about ending the conflict. India’s oldest insurgency. Since then, the peace process in Naga has made little progress due to disagreement over two key requirements – a separate flag and a constitution.
Nadda’s visit is assumed to make sense as Nagaland will go to the polls next year. The saffron party is likely to have a seat-sharing agreement with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP). There is much speculation that the BJP will vie for 20 seats and while the NDPP will field its candidates in 40 constituencies.
“The northeast region has become insurgent-free… The Karbi Anglong Agreement is signed in 2021. The agreement has synergy with a vision of a prosperous and insurgent-free northeast. The Tripura Agreement was signed in August 2019. For the permanent settlement of Bru families, the Bru Agreement was signed…,” he said.
Yes, he was right in presenting these facts! But the time and place were wrong. In India, no one understood the uprising better than the Nagas, and they could easily draw the line between sophistry and reality.