Govt to grant citizenship to Chakmas, Hajong refugees; but they won’t enjoy ST status

While some stayed back with Chakmas already living in Lushai Hills, the Indian government moved a majority of the refugees to North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now Arunachal Pradesh.

Written by Rahul Tripathi | New Delhi | Updated: September 13, 2017 5:54 pm
Chakma refugees, Hajong refugees Government, Hajong refugee citizenship, Chakma refugee citizenship, Northeast, Chakma-Hajong refugee issue, Supreme court, Rajnath singh, kiren Rijiju, Pema Khandu, India news, indian express news Home Minister Rajnath Singh (PTI Photo)

The Centre is all set to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees who have been living in Arunachal Pradesh for more than half a century. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will hold consultations today with Arunachal CM Pema Khandu to initiate the process, officials said.

However, citizenship will not entitle these refugees to the rights enjoyed by Scheduled Tribes in the state, they added. MoS Home Kiren Rijiju said, “SC order has to be honoured. Chakmas are settled in Arunachal Pradesh since 1964. But ST status & indigenous people’s right won’t be diluted”.

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

The Indian Express on May 19 was first to report on government’s move to grant CI citizenship. “The grant of citizenship is in the Union list of the Constitution and can be issued by the MHA despite objections from the state government. But as normal practice we try to take the states on board,” a senior government official said.

The state government has earlier argued that once citizenship is granted to these refugees, it would reduce the indigenous tribal communities to a minority and deprive them of opportunities. The Centre, officials said, may propose that Chakmas and Hajongs can be issued Inner Line Permit, allowing them to travel and work but not allowing them land rights.

Chakmas and Hajongs entered India through what was then the Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). While some stayed back with Chakmas already living in Lushai Hills, the Indian government moved a majority of the refugees to North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now Arunachal Pradesh.

Their number has increased from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to 1 lakh at present. In the absence of citizenship and land rights, they continue to live like refugees. The state government does, however, provide them basic amenities.

Initially there was little opposition to the refugees because NEFA was an extremely backward area with low education levels and no elected body. But from 1990, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) built up an agitation demanding their ouster from Arunachal Pradesh.

The Centre was given a deadline by the Supreme Court in 2015 to confer citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs within three months.

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  1. X
    Sep 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm
    here come the racist north Indian and dalals 1st s the country to Mughal then to British then now to RSS and BJP carry on uneducated illiterated s.
    1. mimi sur
      Sep 13, 2017 at 5:24 pm
      Indian gov should give citizenship to all cuted people of Indigenous faith . Giving citizenship to people of non-indigenous faith will lead to situation like Kashmir or Kerala or WB . We are blessed to have great thinkers like Chanakya, but if we don't follow the prudent path shown by him, then we will cease to be a nation.
      1. M
        Sep 13, 2017 at 4:43 pm
        well come step.but deport rohingyas ,bangladeshi muslims from india as they are terrorists and jihadi people
        1. K
          Kamal Pasha
          Sep 13, 2017 at 4:35 pm
          Afghanistan is now brotherly country of India. Modi and Ghani look like real brothers. India should take atleast 1 million Afghan refugees from UN refugee camps in Pakistan also.
          1. M
            Sep 13, 2017 at 4:12 pm
            Very much welcome right move chakmas and hajong being Non muslims are humans unlike rohingyas being muzzies are complete devils. Moreover, chakmas and hajong being Buddhists hence from our Sanatan Sanskar are complete humans unlike semi-human abrahamic faiths who also have muzzie lile tendencies of increasing numbers e.g. like making rice bag converts
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