Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] The distinct cry of an imperilled frontier

The rest of India must recognise the concerns of the Northeast in what it sees in the Citizenship Amendment Act.
By IASToppers
December 19, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Important issues of North East regarding CAA
  • Population
  • Issue of marginalization
  • Conclusion
  • Background
  • IT’s Input

The distinct cry of an imperilled frontier

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  • Recently, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 was passed by the Parliament of India. It amends the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship for religious minorities from the predominantly Muslim countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.


  • This act has very important multiple issues regarding the northeast states of India and thus, northeast states are opposing this act.

Important issues of North East regarding CAA

Vulnerable language:

  • According to UNESCO’s definition of endangered languages, all of the 200 and more languages spoken in the Northeast are in the vulnerable category with the exception of Assamese and Bengali.
  • Even in the case of Assamese, though it is the language of the majority in the State (Census 2011), it is still a tiny minority when the larger region of Bangladesh, Bengal and Assam is considered.

UNESCO provide a classification system to show just how ‘in trouble’ the language is:


Vulnerable – most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home)

Definitely endangered – children no longer learn the language as a ‘mother tongue’ in the home

Severely endangered – language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves

Critically endangered – the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently

Extinct – No-speakers left

  • In the UNESCO list, several languages in the Northeast have already become extinct and many more are critically endangered.

Issue of marginalization:


  • The small ethnic Buddhist communities such as the Chakmas (second largest tribe in Mizoram and Marmas could be marginalized if the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, close to the North east border of India, resettled among them.


  • There was a Burmese Konbaung ruler named King Bagyidaw whose army invaded and occupied Assam and Manipur in 1819.
  • Then British intervened and took over Assam (which then was virtually the entire Northeast with the exception of Tripura and Manipur). British formally annexed Assam in 1826 after the signing of the Treaty of Yandabo to make it a part of its Bengal province.


  • As Assam was at the time unfamiliar with British colonial administration and education, educated Hindu Bengalis from Bangladesh get higher administrative jobs colonial bureaucracy. It is from this position of power, that Hindu Bengalis dominated Assam’s political as well as cultural spheres. This, subsequently, created conflict.
  • When Assam was separated from Bengal in 1874 and then in 1912 after Lord Curzon’s partition of Bengal (1905) was withdrawn, Sylhet (city in eastern Bangladesh) stayed in Assam. However, Assamese leadership refused this as Assam would then have become Bengali majority.
  • As a result, in 1947, the Sylhet referendum decided to cut Sylhet from Assam and merge it into East Bengal.


The current CAB issue is a consequence of the bitter politics of antagonism of the North East people. The way forward has to be on the path of truth and reconciliation on this matter. India must recognize the concerns of the Northeast in what it sees in the Citizenship Amendment Act.

IT’s Input

Highlights of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019:

Eligibility for citizenship for certain illegal migrants:

  • The bill amended the Act to provide that illegal migrants from religious minorities – Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians – from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, eligible for Indian citizenship.


  • In order to get this benefit, they must have also been exempted from the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 by the central government.


  • Provisions on citizenship for illegal migrants will not apply to areas under Sixth Scheduleto the Constitution and areas under Inner Line Permit (ILP). These tribal areas include Karbi Anglong (in Assam), Garo Hills (in Meghalaya), Chakma District (in Mizoram), and Tripura Tribal Areas District. 


  • It will also not apply to the areas under the ‘Inner Line’ under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.  The Inner Line Permit regulates visit of Indians to Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland.  

Citizenship by naturalization:

  • The Act allows a person to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, if the person meets certain qualifications. One of the qualifications is that the person must have resided in India or been in central government service for the last 12 months and at least 11 years of the preceding 14 years.
  • It further reduces the period of naturalization to 5 years. (The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 reduced it from 11 years to 6 years).

Grounds for cancelling OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) registration: 

The Act provides that the central government may cancel registration of OCIs on five grounds registration through fraud,

  1. Showing disaffection to the Constitution,
  2. Engaging with the enemy during war,
  3. Necessity in the interest of sovereignty of India,
  4. Security of state or public interest, or
  5. If within five years of registration the OCI has been sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more.


The act added one more ground for cancelling registration, that is, if the OCI has violated any law that is in force in the country.



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