Amid India’s CAA Protests, the Nuances of the Northeast Are Lost — Yet Again

In India’s northeast, the sentiment around foreigners is as diverse as the indigenous minorities in the region.

northeast bangalore
Northeasterners protest in Bengaluru

Makepeace Sitlhou


February 6, 2020


13 min

On December 14, 2019, Rajashri Kalita went to occupy the steps of Town Hall, the famed site for democratic protests in Bengaluru, India. A hundred-odd protestors accompanied Kalita, mostly students and working professionals from the northeastern state of Assam, who were there to raise awareness about the political situation back home. 

Statewide protests had broken out in Assam and Tripura on December 9, when the lower house of India’s Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), which fast-tracks naturalization for non-Muslim migrants from the neighboring Muslim-majority states of Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. India’s president signed the bill into law on Thursday, December 12. CAB became the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Protests against CAA soon spread across India, but not everyone was protesting for the same reasons. Most Indian protestors outside the northeastern states, which many northeasterners call “mainlanders,” were fighting to save the secular fabric of Indian society from the hands of a divisive Hindu nationalist government under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

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