The Prime Minister is keen on quality translators of Indian languages in Parliament so that MPs can speak in their own languages and others can follow simultaneously. In this, he wants to follow the United Nations General Assembly translation system. But it is not easy to find such translators. It took one year to get one of the Santali language in Rajya Sabha. As a consequence, an MP recently gave a speech in Santali for the first time in the House and it could be translated simultaneously.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had a warm relationship with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe who had been slated to visit India. They have been meeting almost every alternate year. This time, the venue had been fixed on the banks of the Brahmaputra and the plan was to go to Manipur after the conference to pay homage to Indian and Japanese soldiers killed by the British army in World War II. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) agitation, however, led to a change of plans. There was a proposal to hold the meeting in Bhubaneswar or other venues but Modi talked to Abe and decided to postpone it to March or April. Abe too acceded to it.
To control any flare up in violence and maintain order if things go out of control in the Northeast because of the CAA, the soldier the Government is relying on is Lieutenant General Anil Chauhan, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command. With Army operations in the region under his watch, he has been active in monitoring the situation and visiting the border with Bangladesh. He has been sending reports to Delhi and coordinating with local government heads.
What’s His Stand?
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s response to the CAA has left many puzzled. He supported the Bill in Parliament but apparently is very upset about it. His party member Prashant Kishor openly opposed the Bill but remains a vice president of the Janata Dal (United). Likewise, Pavan Varma, a Nitish confidant, too, spoke against the CAA. Some say this is typical Nitish politics, a strategy in which he will have a foot on both sides of the issue.
Tangle of States
The campaign in social media against the CAA, especially connecting it to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), is getting the BJP worried. When Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla recently went to Rajasthan, several students came and spoke against the NRC to him. In the NRC exercise in Assam, 50,000 government employees worked to make the list. And to make it an all-India exercise, you still need the state governments’ consent and hundreds of thousands of state government employees would also have to participate in implementing it. With several states opposing, there could be a constitutional conflict between the Centre and the states.
Bangladesh is naturally upset about the CAA given that it labels it as a country that persecutes religious minorities. Its foreign minister cancelled his India tour recently. The present High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Delhi, Syed Muazzem Ali, is now retiring after five years of his tenure. He met the Prime Minister on learning about the CAA. Modi reassured him that it was not against Bangladesh and not to jump to conclusions because there was a lot of confusion about it. He said there would be no change in the relationship between the two countries.
One unintended effect of the CAA issue has been on the National People’s Party member of Parliament Agatha Sangma who had to cancel her honeymoon and return to Delhi when the Bill was brought to Parliament. Daughter of former Speaker PA Sangma, she had just got married. But politics forced her to cut short her honeymoon; the Bill was too important not to vote upon. Her party is against the Bill even though in Meghalaya it is the BJP’s ally and her elder brother is the Chief Minister.
With the CAA being passed, there is apparently an interesting fallout along the West Bengal border—a rush by illegal migrants to go back to Bangladesh. The border is porous and a lot of them come searching for employment through subdivisions like Bongaon and Basirhat. This is facilitated by middlemen who are now making money from those who want to go back instead of coming in. According to the Intelligence Bureau, the going rate for one person is Rs 5,000. Even if they can manage to send 10 people back, they make Rs 50,000 on a single night. It is said that some sections of the Border Security Force are also involved in the racket. The Home Ministry has alerted the governments of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura about this phenomenon.