April 15, 2024

Arunachal opposes citizenship to Chakma-Hajong refugees

TAP | Updated: May 27, 2017


ITANAGAR, May 27: The contentious Chakma and Hajong refugee row on Saturday took a new twist with people from various walks of life vehemently opposed the recent decision of the Centre to grant citizenship to the refugees residing in the state since several decades.

Participating in a consultative meeting organised by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) in the backdrop of the recent decision of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, majority of the people demanded the state government pursue the matter rigorously with the Centre for a logical conclusion.

AAPSU, the apex students body of the state that has been spearheading the movement against the refugees since 1990, is apprehensive that after getting citizenship and settlement rights, Chakmas and Hajongs would reduce the indigenous tribes to a minority besides taking away all opportunities currently available to them.

The meeting, after threadbare discussion, endorsed the AAPSU to hold an all-political party meeting within a week to draw more consensuses on the issue. Attending the all-party meet was made mandatory for all 60 MLAs and three MPs of the state.

It was also resolved to revive the high-power committee constituted by the Union Home Ministry to study the refugee issue besides carrying out enumeration of the population of Chakma, Hajong and Tibetan refugees in the state.

The meeting further resolved to discuss the issue of granting ST status to Yobin and Lisu communities in the all-party meeting.

The meeting expressed resentment over Chakma and Hajong refugees sneaking out of their designated camps and encroaching upon reserve forests. It appealed the state government to carry out eviction drive and contain the refugees within the designated blocks till a mechanism is framed. Sports and Youth Affairs department Chairman Bamang Tago had a similar suggestion besides proposing a tripartite talk between state government, Central government and representatives from Chakmas and Hajongs.

Earlier, in his presidential address, AAPSU president Hawa Bagang expressed surprise over Home Ministry’s move even after assuring the students’ body in Delhi that it would look into the issue positively.

AAPSU’s legal advisor Marto Kato wondered how the ministry could take such a decision when a curative petition and a special leave petition filed by the state government and the union were pending with the Supreme Court.

All Papum Pare District Students’ Union President Nabam Tado asked the state government not to give schedule tribe status to the Chakmas and Hajongs. He suggested constitution of a permanent committee to fight the issue.

All Tai-Khampti Singpho Students’ Union chief advisor Thingnong Umbu, opposing citizenship rights to the refugees, slammed the state government for improper planning to deal with the issue.

Referring to the referendum rally organised by AAPSU in September 2005 after which the Gegong Apang-led government had resigned en masse to give birth to the regional Arunachal Congress, Umbe questioned the political leaders on their promises made during the rally.

Arunachal Press Club President Chopa Cheda asked the AAPSU leadership to immediately convene a meeting with all three MPs and ministers and MLAs of the state and pressure them to resolve the issue permanently.

Senior advocate TT Tara dwelt at length on the legal provisions and Acts under which the tribals of the state are protected.

Former AAPSU presidents Nabam Jollow, Takam Tatung and Dominic Tadar apart from general secretaries Domin Loya and Tujum Poyom also suggested for a strong mechanism through the state government to resolve the issue once for all.

Kameng Ringu, Chairman of the central working committee of Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) asked the state government to discuss the matter immediately with the Centre.

PPA President Kahfa Bengia demanded the government to take up the issue seriously and suggested for setting up of a refugee department to monitor the activities of the refugees.

Former minister Nyato Rigia suggested the AAPSU leadership to work in tandem with the state government to hammer out a permanent solution.

Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of erstwhile East Pakistan, who had to flee when their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s. The Buddhist Chakmas and Hindu Hajongs also faced religious persecution in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

Chakmas and Hajongs entered India 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, which is now Arunachal Pradesh.

According to officials, the number of these refugees has increased from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to 1,00,000. At present, they do not posses citizenship and land rights, but are provided basic amenities by the state government.

In 2015, the Supreme Court gave the Centre a deadline to confer citizenship to these refugees within three months. The Arunachal government appealed in vain against the apex court’s order. It was then that consultations started in earnest between the state and the Centre on the issue.