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Talking Peace and CAA: 2019, the year that was

Published Jan 02, 2020
Updated Feb 24, 2020

As we bid adieu to 2019 and welcome the New Year 2020, it would be immensely rewarding to reflect upon at least two newsworthy topics that had captured our attention in 2019.

Of the many events, two important issues that had indeed captured adequate spatial and temporal attention were the end of protracted political negotiation between the government of India and Naga groups and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

Towards the end of October, there were wild speculations being churned out both by the informed and over-enthusiastic sections of the society over the outcome of the Naga peace talks.

Many of the speculations were based on the ‘fear of the unknown’ rather than a well-formulated and meticulous culling of information already available in the public domain. However, there were flippant generalisations of key indicators without properly digesting the actual dynamics of the phenomenon.

Many had grossly misread the process of the Naga political negotiations while others have inadvertently mixed up the process of ‘talks’ with the process leading to the final signing of the agreement.

The tendency to collapse the two processes as one caused implicit confusion despite the clear utterances of RN Ravi, the government of India’s interlocutor for the Naga peace talks who is also the Governor of Nagaland. He was clear on the key principle that guided ‘one process and one solution’.

The modalities under ‘one process and one solution’ meant the government of India will ensure that efforts are put in place to unify all those engaged in the peace talks as one entity. In simple words, NSCN (I-M) and Working Committee (WC) of Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) will be on board as one group before the actual signing of the agreement.

Despite the unease likely to be caused by the impending inking of the peace deal, New Delhi made it clear that it will consult all stakeholders, including the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Since the consultations seem to be still on, political analysts and observers will have to wait for the inking of the final deal which may or may not cause adverse impact on Manipur. While the ripples of the Naga peace deal continued to affect political terrain in Manipur, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) was passed by Parliament of India on December 11.

CAA amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing a way to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Muslims were excluded from such eligibility.

The government of India had managed to skillfully convince the ruling regime in Manipur by extending the Inner Line Permit System (ILPS) to the state with President Ram Nath Kovind signing an order to this effect.

With the order, Manipur has now officially become the fourth state after Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram where the ILPS regime is applicable. Despite the assurances given by the Centre that CAA would not be applicable in areas governed under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution and areas covered by ILP regime, many were still not convinced and protests are still being held by various political parties and civil voluntary organisations.

The issue will continue to hog media limelight in the New Year too. It remains to be seen how the ILPS would be actually implemented as the New Year arrives.

Whatever said and done, Manipur still needs a rounded debate on whether ILPS will indeed be able to protect the indigenous communities of the state.

Here, one should understand that protective laws and empowering rights are complex issues. The goals of protective laws are to shield vulnerable classes and communities from unwarranted assault on their very existence while empowering laws like CAA seek to enable foreign migrants to become rightful citizens of India.

As mentioned earlier on this space, once the people are trapped within the whirlpool of enticing objectives of protective laws, there is every little possibility of empowering themselves. Let us hope that the dawn of a New Year does not begin with efforts to further deepen dependency syndrome in a self-perpetuating asymmetrical federalism.