On Wednesday, thousands of young people hit the streets in different towns of Mizoram to protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. Many of them held banners that read, “Hello China, Bye Bye India”.

“There is a strong feeling among us Mizos that the India does not listen to us, does not care for us, and favours illegal migrants over us,” said Ricky Lalbiakmawia, the finance secretary of the North East Students’ Organisation, an umbrella body of students’ organisations in the region, which organised the protest rally along with the Mizo Zirlai Pawl, Mizoram’s most influential student body. “So, we are starting to think if it is instead better to seek assistance from China, and have better relations with them.”

Image courtesy: Young Mizo Association

A polarising Bill

The bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Jain migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years, even if they do not possess the necessary documents, has elicited strong reactions from groups in the North East that claim to represent “indigenous” interests.

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha earlier this month, and is likely to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha during its next sitting, scheduled to begin from January 30. In Guwahati, too, a similar protest rally on Wednesday called by the All Assam Students’ Union, which spearheaded the anti-foreigner agitation in the state from 1979-85, and supported by the North East Students’ Organisation, saw a massive response.

Image courtesy: Young Mizo Association

According to the organisers, the attendance in the Aizawl leg of the rally itself was over 30,000. “We have resolved to safeguard our land against foreigners till our last breath,” said Lalnunmawia Pautu, general secretary of the Mizo Zirlai Pawl. “We Mizos will not sit idle if the government turns a deaf ear to our repeated requests to annul the Bill.”

Image courtesy: Young Mizo Association

‘Will boycott Republic Day’

Mizo civil society organisations said they will up the ante of the protests if the Central government sticks to its stand in “favour of illegal migrants”. “All NGOs will boycott Republic Day if the Union government doesn’t keep Mizoram out of the Bill’s purview,” warned Lalhmachhuana, the general secretary of the Young Mizo Association, Mizoram’s largest and most powerful pressure group, which has in its ranks almost 40% of the state’s population. A protest led by the outfit in the run up to the elections had forced even the Election Commission to shunt one of its officials out of the state. Similar banners had been seen at that protest too.

“We have submitted multiple representations to the home minister, the prime minster and the joint parliamentary committee on the Bill, but they don’t want to listen to our feelings,” said Lalhmachhuana. “It means the people of Mizoram are not taken into consideration by the Union government. If that’s the case, we are not also not interested in being India citizens. We better be with China, where the people also belong to Mongoloid tribes like us.”

Scroll.in has been extensively reporting on the fallouts of the Citizenship Bill and the National Register of Citizens in Assam. Read our coverage here: Assam’s Citizenship tangle.