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Sun, 22 Jul 2018

Northeast Today

AAPSU Firm Against Granting Citizenship to Chakma Hajong

AAPSU Firm Against Granting Citizenship to Chakma Hajong
August 08
17:24 2017

July Edition, Statewide Arunachal Pradesh, NET Bureau

The Union government all set to grant citizenship to the Chakma-Hajong refugees, who have been living in Arunachal Pradesh for over 50 years.The decision,however, has not gone down well with the people of Arunachal Pradesh and it has been criticised severely. Northeast Today reports…

A brief round-up

The Chakma-Hajong tribe migrated to India in between 1964-1969, after being displaced from Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan). The Chakmas, who are Buddhist, and Hajongs, who are Hindus, also faced religious persecution there and they entered through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). While some stayed back with the Chakmas already in the district, the Indian government moved a majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) – present Arunachal Pradesh. Official data suggest that the number of these refugees has increased from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to 100000. Even though these refugees presently does not possess citizenship and land rights, but they are provided basic amenities by the Arunachal government.

Issue of Citizenship

After the Chakma and the Hajong tribe entered India, in a joint statement between Prime Minister of India and Bangladesh in 1972, they were conferred Indian Citizenship under Section 51(A). However, Arunachal Pradesh government had reservations about their citizenship. Then in 2015, the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh (CCRC) filed a petition in Supreme Court seeking citizenship rights for the Chakma-Hajong tribe as their citizenship applications were not entertained by the Arunachal government.

The Supreme Court, in its order, cited the following, “The Chakmas and Hajong tribal who migrated to India and settled in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, need to be protected and their claims of citizenship needs to considered as per applicable pro-cedure. They could not be discriminated in any manner pending formal conferment of right of citizenship.”

Moreover, the Supreme Court gave the Centre a deadline that these refugees be conferred citizenship within three months. The Arunachal government approached the apex court, appealing against the order but in vain. It was then that consultations started in earnest between the state and the Centre on the issue.

It may be further mentioned here that after it came to power at the Centre, the NDA government has taken several steps to simplify the process for granting long-term visa and citizenship to Hindu minorities from neighbouring countries.

Against Granting Citizenship

In conversation with NET, president of All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) Hawa Bagang, while reacting to the Centre’s decision to grant citizenship to the Chakma-Hajong said, “Central government’s proposed move to grant citizenship to the Chakma Hajong refugees in the state even after of so many years of opposition by the AAPSU and indigenous populace of the state, is wrong on their part.”

On being asked about the possible political implications in the state if the Centre stays with its decision, Bagang said, “Political implications will be immense and adversely impact the indigenous people of the state. The exponential growth of Chakma Hajong refugee population down the years will be rewarded because with citizenship, political rights will also come along.”

“They will have major say in the political arithmetic of at least 8-10 constituencies and one Parliamentary constituency because of their dominant population. The fear of political intrusion by Chakma-Hajong is also not baseless as once given citizenship,they are bound to reap the fruits in Miao Bordumsa constituency by winning it comfortably as concentration of their population here is high,” he adds on.

Arunachal Chief Minister Pema Khandu, on June 19, called upon an all-party meeting to discuss about the issue, which was also attended by the AAPSU leaders. Sharing details about the meeting, Bagang said, “In the meeting, all parties have unanimously decided to oppose tooth and nail against the Centre’s decision.”

“AAPSU is hopeful that the meeting will have a fruitful outcome and we also expect that leaders participating in the meeting will look from the broader prism of indigenous populace aspirationsand hopes, keeping aside their narrow political game,” Bagang further said.

“Our stand on the issue is clear and consistent from the very beginning. No citizenship right in Arunachal and AAPSU has been against the temporary settlement of the Chakma and Hajongs since 1964, when U Chakma- a political officer of Pasighat, NEFA- misguided the then Assam governor Vishnu Sahay, who gave the permission for settling the refugees purely on temporary basis for 10 years,” Bagang added further.

He also informed that 57 families, as per judicial records were allowed to settle in Arunachal in 1966.

“Prior to that, U Chakma had misused his office to bring more refugees in to the state, which can be visibly observed through a letter dated July 17, 1964, by PN Luthra, advisor to the Governor, warning U Chakma to stop his conduct for illegal settlement of Chakmas in the State,” informed the AAPSU leader.

He further said that the Centre cannot trample the rights of indigenous people and any deviation from the union’s demands will be opposed vehemently.

“Going ahead with the citizenship rights to the Chakma Hajong in Arunachal will only add to AAPSU’s opposition as we will agitate with more vigour for safeguarding the rights of our people,” said Bagang.

“The High Court and the Supreme Court in 1992, 1993 had uniformly declared the Chakmas and the Hajongs as ‘foreigners’ and granting citizenship to these refugees will put the identity of the indigenous people of the state at peril, posing a threat to their identity and culture. We cannot accept any decision which goes against the interests of the people of Arunachal Pradesh,” he concluded.


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