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Chakma and Hajong refugees set to get citizenship

Home Ministry officials said that while consultations are on with the state government, the citizenship will not entitle the refugees to rights enjoyed by Scheduled Tribes in the state, including land ownership.

Written by Rahul Tripathi | New Delhi | Published: May 19, 2017 3:35 am
Chakma, Hajong, Hajong refugee, Hajong refugee citizenship, Chakma refugee citizenship, supreme court, arunachal pradesh, arunachal pradesh refugee, Chittagong Hill Tracts, MHA, indian express news, india news Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal, had recently raised the citizenship issue at a Northeast meet chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

THE CENTRE is all set to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees, who have been based in Arunachal Pradesh for over 50 years, official sources told The Indian Express.

Home Ministry officials said that while consultations are on with the state government, the citizenship will not entitle the refugees to rights enjoyed by Scheduled Tribes in the state, including land ownership.

Read | Arunachal fumes as SC seeks citizenship for Chakmas and Hajongs

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 Chakmas, who are Buddhist, and Hajongs, who are Hindus, also faced religious persecution in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

“The grant of citizenship is on the Union list of the Constitution and can be issued by the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) despite objections from the state government. But as normal practice, we try to take the states on board,” said a senior government official.

Read | Why Chakmas and Hajongs are India’s nowhere people

He said that in this case, discussions were initiated following a protest by the Arunachal government.

The state government has argued that if citizenship is granted to the refugees, it would reduce the indigenous tribal communities to a minority and deprive them of opportunities. Since 1990, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has been demanding their ouster from the state.

Officials said the Centre may propose that Chakmas and Hajongs be issued Inner Line Permits, allowing them to travel and work but not possess land rights.

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 (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 do not posses citizenship and land rights, but are provided basic amenities by the state government.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal, had recently raised the citizenship issue at a Northeast meet chaired by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

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

In its election manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had declared India as “a natural home for persecuted Hindus”. 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.

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  1. Maheswar Deka
    Aug 19, 2017 at 10:25 am
    Considering humanity, Chakma and Hajong communities should be given Indian citizenship.The atrocities faced by the Chakmas and hajongs in East Pakistan( now Bangladesh )are beyond description.
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      Sony kumar
      Jul 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm
      Its seem Arunachalee will face problems in central regions.. Lets see the consequences further..
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        Sony kumar
        Jul 20, 2017 at 9:15 pm
        India can not be blame neither central governments but state government of Arunachal is totally bind that chakmas are legally migrated in 1960s under Indian government jurisdiction. Why chakmas are so blind if I would be in your place I would smoke all over ing irritating state government of Ap or against AAPSU. Hold a rally block road or burn the offices of state.
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          Subu tatu
          May 20, 2017 at 10:08 pm
          I'm totally against it and most of my people will share the same amenity.How can we the indigenous people of this holy land,can share the same status to the people hai from other country or to an alien?Saying this,I mean to say that,it will be totally a wrong decision,if centre govt gives the citizenship to refugees.We as an being a very humble people has already allow them to peacefully live in our land,but it will be totally wrong to allow them to possess a land of our ancestor's.Centre should think twice before rendering such order's. I hope that govt will surely take the right decision for betterment of my people and at the same time not hurting our great interest and expectations. My people will never ever let this tragic happen.Let it known to centre. Thank you.
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          1. Kaling Siram
            May 20, 2017 at 11:56 am
            I am very much anno against indian goverment for making such decission. I thnk people of ap should understand that the mainlanders will never understand the problem, such delicate issues should be given to state not central goverment.more over center should not intervene with the state issues.They give rights to anybody they want. I think its time to pick up guns against indian goverment.
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