Will CAB Turn Out to be Another IMDT?
Will the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) turn out to be another Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) or IMDT Act which was repealed after a long struggle by the “Jatiyodabadi” camp?
None other than chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal was instrumental in scrapping the IMDT Act which unduly favoured illegal migrants and which was enacted in the year 1983. A long legal battle in the Supreme Court spread over nearly a decade was fought by Sonowal which ultimately earned him the endearing sobriquet, “Jatiya Nayak.”
But look at his tryst of destiny, currently Sonowal is batting in favour of illegal migrants through the introduction of the CAB which has already became an act and which will allow persecuted minorities excluding Muslims to obtain citizenship in India.
The IMDT Act was introduced in Parliament and subsequently passed by the Late Indira Gandhi-led Congress government which basically protects an illegal migrant. The act stated that the onus of proving someone as a foreigner lies with the complainant. This rule basically prevented anyone to complain about an illegal migrant.
But the vexed act continued in Assam for nearly 16 years before it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005 after hearing a petition that was filed by Sarbananda Sonowal.
Scrapping of the act by the Supreme Court made Sonowal an instant political hero in Assam at that time. But since then much water has flowed under the bridge and now he finds himself on the wrong side of fence being termed as “villain” by many for allegedly murdering the interests of Assamese people by supporting the CAB.
There were many striking similarities between IMDT and CAB. Both the acts’ central focus is the illegal migrant. The former protected an illegal migrant from the legal system, while the latter today allows an illegal migrant to obtain Indian citizenship.
The influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) which is spearheading the current agitation has already moved the apex court against the decision. The leadership of AASU has admitted that it will be a long legal and democratic battle.
It may be mentioned here that the lopsided IMDT Act continued in Assam for 22 long years and the dismal record of foreigners’ detection by the tribunals set up under the Act is nothing to write home about.
Many legal experts have said that the IMDT Act was a “paper tiger” but it still remained prevalent in Assam for such a long time which put a hindrance on the path of detection of foreigners in the state.
It is a sharp contrast for chief minister Sonowal now. As a student leader he was at the forefront in taking steps against the vexed IMDT Act. And now as a political leader, he is being accused of making the route for illegal migrants to become citizens of India easy. Just that all such illegal migrants that Sonowal favours happen to be Hindus.