IN A REFUGEE QUANDARY

Cen­tre to grant cit­i­zen­ship to Chakma, Hajong refugees

Financial Chronicle - - FUNDAMENTALS, POLITICS -

THE Cen­tre will grant cit­i­zen­ship to all Chakma and Hajong refugees liv­ing in the North­east but en­sure that the rights of indige­nous peo­ple are not di­luted, Union min­is­ter Kiren Ri­jiju said Wed­nes­day.

The Chakma-Hajong refugee is­sue was dis­cussed thread­bare at a high level meet­ing con­vened by Union Home Min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh and at­tended by Arunachal Pradesh chief min­is­ter Pema Khandu, Union min­is­ter of state for Home Ri­jiju and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor Ajit Do­val among oth­ers.

Ad­dress­ing re­porters af­ter the hour-long meet­ing, Ri­jiju said a “mid­dle ground” would be cho­sen so the 2015 Supreme Court or­der to grant cit­i­zen­ship to Chakma-Hajong refugees could be hon­oured and the rights of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion not di­luted. “The Supreme Court or­der has to be hon­oured. Chakmas are set­tled in Arunachal Pradesh since 1964. But ST sta­tus and indige­nous peo­ple’s rights won’t be di­luted,” he said.

The ini­tia­tive on the Chakma and Hajong refugees comes amid the on­go­ing row over the Cen­tral govern­ment’s plans to de­port Ro­hingya Mus­lims, who came to In­dia due to al­leged per­se­cu­tion in Myan­mar. Ri­jiju, who be­longs to Arunachal Pradesh, has said Ro­hingyas are il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

Sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions and civil so­ci­ety in Arunachal Pradesh have been op­pos­ing cit­i­zen­ship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees say­ing it would change the de­mog­ra­phy of the state. The cen­tral govern­ment is try­ing to find a work­able so­lu­tion by propos­ing that the refugees will not be given rights, in­clud­ing land own­er­ship, en­joyed by Sched­uled Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, an of­fi­cial said. How­ever, they may be given In­ner Line per­mits re­quired for non-lo­cals in Arunachal Pradesh to travel and work. Ri­jiju blamed the Congress for the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, say­ing that the then govern­ment had set­tled the refugees in Arunachal Pradesh with­out tak­ing the lo­cal peo­ple into con­fi­dence. “Congress has done great in­jus­tice to the lo­cal peo­ple. We are try­ing to find a mid­dle ground so that the Supreme Court or­der is hon­oured, the lo­cal peo­ple’s rights are not in­fringed and the hu­man rights of the Chakmas and Ha­jongs are pro­tected,” he said. The min­is­ter said a pe­ti­tion may be filed on the is­sue in the SC soon.

Chakmas and Ha­jongs were orig­i­nally res­i­dents of the Chit­tagong Hill Tracts in erst­while East Pak­istan who left their home­land when it was sub­merged by the Kap­tai dam project in the 1960s. The Chakmas, who are Bud­dhists, and Ha­jongs, who are Hin­dus, also al­legedly faced re­li­gious per­se­cu­tion and en­tered In­dia through the then Lushai Hills dis­trict of As­sam (now Mi­zo­ram). The Cen­tre moved the ma­jor­ity of them to the North East Fron­tier Agency (NEFA), 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 don’t have cit­i­zen­ship and land rights but are pro­vided ba­sic ameni­ties by the state govern­ment. In 2015, the Cen­tre was di­rected by the Supreme Court to con­fer cit­i­zen­ship to th­ese refugees. The Arunachal Pradesh govern­ment ap­proached the apex court to re­view its or­der but in vain. Af­ter the Supreme Court’s re­jec­tion, both the cen­tral and state gov­ern­ments have started con­sul­ta­tions to find a so­lu­tion to the is­sue.

Orig­i­nally res­i­dents of the Chit­tagong Hill Tracts in erst­while East Pak­istan, Chakmas and Ha­jongs left their home­land when it was sub­merged by the Kap­tai dam project in the 1960s

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