Mumbai: Protests have rocked the northeast since the passage of the Citizen Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament, especially in Assam and subsequently spread to the adjoining states.
On Thursday, the picture was no different at the August Kranti Maidan, Grant Road, where northeasterners joined hands with fellow Indians in Mumbai, to express dissent on the CAA.
According to northeasterners, their fight against the CAA and National Register of Citizenship (NRC) dates back to 2016. The CAA endangers the indigenous people of Assam as it violates the Constitution and Assam Accord of 1985.
"Post-Independence, the north-east has witnessed an influx of refugees from across the border. People have become outnumbered in their own land," said Sumedha Kaushik from Chembur, who is from Assam.
Kaushik said, the north-eastern states have always been a haven for refugees, to the extent that in Tripura, the native Tripuris have become a minority, constituting a mere 31.78 per cent of population, as revealed in the last census.
“For decades, people from Bangladesh have migrated to the north-east. Our protest is not against any religion or community but for preserving our culture and heritage,” said an entrepreur from Navi Mumbai, Prachujya Bezboruah.
As protests in the northeast intensified, the Assamese were labelled 'racists' and Islamophobes, Bezboruah said. However, he said, the people of Assam were protesting to protect the culture and rituals of the northeast and were not against any religious community.
“We are not racists, we are one of the most liberal communities in the nation. On the contrary, we are subjected to racial remarks in the mainland. Our fight is to protect the demography and culture and thus, we are compelled to hit the streets today,” he said.
These citizens strongly feel the CAA will be a threat to territorial security, as it will increase the influx of infiltrators, as India shares a porous border with Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal.
“The CAA is not only unconstitutional but also violates the Assam accord. This act is a direct attack on the Constitution,” said Tenu Nukshoi from Mizoram.
Nukshoi felt the Act was a stunt of the Centre to build its vote bank which would be mainly Hindus.
“Today, we have taken to the streets not because of anger but because of fear and insecurity. Although our demography and culture are endangered, we are overlooked by the government because we come from smaller states, which don't provide sizeable vote banks,” said Richard Kamei of Manipur, a student of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).