‘North-East Economy Will Suffer If Citizenship Act Is Implemented’

Nicky Chandam, a 36-year old theatre artist from Manipur, believes the new Citizenship law will have a disastrous impact on the already-fragile economies of the Northeastern states

As a Manipuri who has been living in Delhi for many years now, I have experienced discrimination first hand. I would never even dream of having a bigoted view about people who have been displaced and seek shelter as refugees. However, one must realise how Northeastern states are demographically and economically different from other states in India. The economies of North-East is fragile because of continuous blockades etc. and the resource crunch has reached its limit.

Although I work in Delhi, it has been a few months that I have been in Imphal (Manipur) for family work. And what a tough time it has been! I am whole-heartedly participating in the protests against Citizenship Act because this will bring in lot of troubles for our already restive region. There is another reason for protest as I find this law openly discriminatory in nature and, as an artist who believes in a Utopian world, I cannot accept it.

However, help and shelter to refugees must not come at the cost of indigenous people. There needs to be a proper procedure in place to rehabilitate immigrants or refugees in such a manner that the native population doesn’t suffer tremendously.

In 2013, around three lakh people were said to have moved from various parts of the country to North-East. As per records, and the crime rates have also been reported as having gone up. This when the indigenous people are migrating from the region for better livelihood, which creates a demographic imbalance. The central government need to pull up their socks if they want the refugee/immigrants crisis to be truly solved.

We understand the pain of displaced people and refugees around the world. All we are saying is that we are against illegal immigrants. Rather than filtering out the illegal immigrants, this new law wants to straightaway give legality to everyone, except Muslims. We feel cheated by the current government.

As an artist I understand how effective and impactful art can be bringing about major changes. Last year I had organised a program where poetry was used as resistance. Artists need to speak up now against this unjustified law. As an artist, I believe in a world where one human being will love another.

The left worldview has had its day in politics across the world, and now it’s time for right wing politics. And when this reaches its crescendo, people will have no choice but to strike the middle path. The left thinks of others at the cost of oneself while the right wing thinks of oneself at the cost of others. Life, however, thrives in balance.

The current Finland Prime Minister, Sanna Marin (34), the youngest to hold the high office, and her cabinet of empowered women, many of whom are in their early thirties, give me hope that such a world is possible. Someday I hope India will rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of hatred and be happy once again.

(The narrator is the founder and managing director of the Octave Foundation, a cultural group that aims to tells stories from North-East through craft and arts)

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