The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: Assam protests should persuade Centre to reconsider the citizenship bill

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: A divisive bill

Over the past few weeks, Assam has been roiled by protests as the joint parliamentary committee on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 visited the state to hold public consultations. Protests also spread to other North Eastern states, particularly Meghalaya, which the joint parliamentary committee also visited briefly. The North Eastern Students’ Organisation, a conglomerate of various student bodies, has also launched an agitation. These protests reveal the many fissures opened up by a bill where citizenship is premised on religion. To the states of the North East, struggling to find peace after decades of ethnic insurgencies, the bill threatens instability once more.

The bill, a pet project of the Bharatiya Janata Party, aims to make certain crucial changes to the Citizenship Act of 1955. It allows illegal migrants who are Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Parsis from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to become eligible for citizenship. It also eases the terms of naturalisation for individuals from these groups. The clauses of the amendment imply that citizenship will be facilitated only for non-Muslim minorities from the three countries.

In the states of North East, the reasons for protest are also exclusionary. In a region where ethnic nationalisms have been framed as “indigenous” inhabitants versus “outsiders”, all foreigners, no matter which religion they belong to, are to be expelled. The flame of Assamese nationalism, which spurred the anti-foreigners’ agitation of the 1980s, led to the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985. Under the terms of the accord, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state from outside the country before midnight on March 24, 1971, was to be declared a foreigner and eventually deported. The cut-off date coincides with the start of the Bangladesh War, which triggered a wave of migration from across the eastern border. Over the last few decades, the fear of illegal immigrants has remained the driving force in Assam’s politics.

In Assam, the bill is a disruptive force in various ways. First, it contradicts the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens in Assam. A bureaucratic process that aims to root out so-called illegal immigrants from the state and its electoral rolls, the register is based on the clauses of the Assam Accord. For regionalists, the bill would dilute the accord and the citizens’ register. For Muslims in Assam, who already feel targeted by the updating exercise, the bill sharpens the fear that they will be left stateless. Second, the bill has reopened the old rupture between the Brahmaputra Valley, which is ranged against the proposed legislation, and the Barak Valley, home to a large Bengali-speaking population that has expressed its support for the bill. The tensions between the two regions date back to Partition and even gave rise to a separate statehood demand in the Barak Valley.

Third, the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom and other groups engaged in negotiations with the government have threatened to pull out of the peace process if the bill is passed. The proposed legislation would unravel decades of efforts to end armed insurgencies that have taken a heavy toll on the state. Finally, the bill has put the BJP-led Assam government in a tight spot. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal recently vowed to step down if he could not protect Assamese interests. But these assurances may not go a long way when other BJP ministers in the Assam government remain silent on it and the party high command seem to actively endorse it. The bill also has also made the BJP’s coalition partner, the Asom Gana Parishad, wary. A regionalist party that grew out of the anti-foreigners’ agitation, the Asom Gana Parishad has threatened to withdraw from the coalition if the bill is passed. So in Assam alone, the bill could lead to a political crisis of grave proportions.

The possible repercussions on the North East should be another reason for the Centre to pause and reconsider the bill. There are, of course, many reasons for the Centre to reconsider the bill, not least because it violates basic principles of secularism enshrined in the Constitution. But then, the animating impulse of the bill has been the BJP’s vision of India as a “natural home” for Hindus, an idea asserted by the prime minister in his election campaigns in the North East. If principled objections based on constitutional values do not cut ice with the government, it could at least consider the very real consequences on the ground.

The Big Scroll

Arunabh Saikia reports on the protests against the bill in the Brahmaputra Valley and the support for it in the Barak Valley.


  1. In the Indian Express, Suhas Palshikar observes that the BJP’s reliance on the prime minister for poll campaigns could be a handicap while the Congress needs to go beyond identity in its electoral discourse.
  2. In the Hindu, Afshaan Yasmeen and S Anil Radakrishnan on Kerala Tourism’s offer to Karnataka,
  3. In the Economic Times, Neerja Chowdhury reads the tea leaves for 2019.


Don’t miss...

Ajaz Ashraf analyses the BJP’s advance in the South after its strong showing in Karnataka:

  “The BJP faces a perception problem in the South. It is seen as a North Indian party trying to establish domination over the South. It is the subcontinent version of culture clash. Its Hindutva project of cow-protection is not popular across all the southern states. Since most of these states have regional players calling the shots, they are instinctively averse to Modi’s quest for domination. They do not want a more Brahminical version of the Congress ruling them.”  

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Decoding the symbolic threads and badges of one of India’s oldest cavalry units

The untold story of The President’s Bodyguard.

The national emblem of India; an open parachute and crossed lances – this triad of symbols representing the nation, excellence in training and valor respectively are held together by an elite title in the Indian army – The President’s Bodyguard (PBG).

The PBG badge is worn by one of the oldest cavalry units in the India army. In 1773, Governor Warren Hastings, former Governor General of India, handpicked 50 troopers. Before independence, this unit was referred to by many titles including Troops of Horse Guards and Governor General’s Body Guards (GGBG). In 1950, the unit was named The President’s Bodyguard and can be seen embroidered in the curved maroon shoulder titles on their current uniforms.

The President’s Bodyguard’s uniform adorns itself with proud colours and symbols of its 245 year-old-legacy. Dating back to 1980, the ceremonial uniform consists of a bright red long coat with gold girdles and white breeches, a blue and gold ceremonial turban with a distinctive fan and Napoleon Boots with spurs. Each member of the mounted unit carries a special 3-meter-long bamboo cavalry lance, decorated by a red and white pennant. A sheathed cavalry sabre is carried in in the side of the saddle of each trooper.

While common perception is that the PBG mainly have ceremonial duties such as that of being the President’s escort during Republic Day parade, the fact is that the members of the PBG are highly trained. Handpicked by the President’s Secretariat from mainstream armored regiments, the unit assigns a task force regularly for Siachen and UN peace keeping operations. Moreover, the cavalry members are trained combat parachutists – thus decorating the PBG uniform with a scarlet Para Wings badge that signifies that these troopers are a part of the airborne battalion of the India Army.

Since their foundation, the President’s Guard has won many battle honors. In 1811, they won their first battle honor ‘Java’. In 1824, they sailed over Kalla Pani for the first Burmese War and earned the second battle honour ‘Ava’. The battle of Maharajapore in 1843 won them their third battle honor. Consequently, the PBG fought in the main battles of the First Sikh War and earned four battle honours. Post-independence, the PBG served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The PBG, one of the senior most regiments of the Indian Army, is a unique unit. While the uniform is befitting of its traditional and ceremonial role, the badges that augment those threads, tell the story of its impressive history and victories.

How have they managed to maintain their customs for more than 2 centuries? A National Geographic exclusive captures the PBG’s untold story. The documentary series showcases the discipline that goes into making the ceremonial protectors of the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces.


The National Geographic exclusive is a landmark in television and is being celebrated by the #untoldstory contest. The contest will give 5 lucky winners an exclusive pass to the pre-screening of the documentary with the Hon’ble President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to be a part of the screening. Follow #UntoldStory on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic and not by the Scroll editorial team.