September 14th, 2017
The Union Home Ministry has cleared the citizenship for over one lakh Chakma-Hajongs, Buddhists, and Hindus on Wednesday, 13 September. These are the refugees who fled to India in the 1960s to escape religious persecution in Chittagong Hill area of Bangladesh.
As reported by The Hindu, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has taken the decision of granting the citizenship to these refugees in a meeting yesterday. MoS Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, Ajit Doval – National Security Advisor (NSA), and the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Prema Khandu were also present.
Rijiju while emerging from the meeting said, “Supreme Court order has to be honoured. Chakmas are settled in Arunachal Pradesh since 1964. But Scheduled Tribe status and indigenous people’s right will not be diluted.”
The government of Arunachal Pradesh had earlier opposed the move, saying that it would change the demography of the state. The Supreme Court had asked the Centre in 2015 to grant citizenship to Chakma-Hajongs.
Who are the Chakmas and Hajongs?
The Chakmas and Hajongs are basically the residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of the former East Pakistan. Chakmas who are Buddhists by faith faced religious persecution in East Pakistan along with the Hajongs, who are Hindus. They had to flee when their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s.
Out of those who reached India, most of them were Chakmas and only 2,000 were Hajong. The groups entered India through what was then called the Lushai Hills district of Assam (today’s Mizoram). Some of them stayed back with Chakmas already living in the Lushai Hills.
A senior official from the Home Ministry has said that they would be granted citizenship but will not have any land ownership rights in Arunachal Pradesh, which is by and large a tribal state.Rijiju blamed the Congress for the current situation, saying that the then government had settled the refugees in Arunachal Pradesh without talking the local people into confidence.
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.
He said, “Congress has done great injustice to the local people. A petition may be filed on the issue in the Supreme Court soon,” as reported by The Economic Times.
The initiative on the Chakma and Hajong refugees comes amidst the ongoing row over the Central government’s plans to deport Rohingya Muslims, who came to India due to persecution in Myanmar.
The citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees have been opposed by several organisations and civil society in Arunachal Pradesh, saying it would change the demography of the state.
The government of Arunachal Pradesh had 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.