NEW DELHI: Amid a raging debate on the Rohingya refugee influx from Myanmar, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju Wednesday said the Centre will grant citizenship to all Chakma and Hajong refugees living in the Northeast in keeping with a Supreme Court order. However, the rights of the indigenous people of the Northeast will not be diluted, he added.
The issue of granting citizenship rights to Chakma-Hajong refugees was discussed at a high-level meeting chaired by home minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu, Rijiju and national security advisor Ajit Doval besides top officials of security agencies.
The government is seeking to find a middle ground by honouring the SC decision on one hand and on the other ensuring the rights of the local population.
During the meeting, a proposal to grant Inner Line Permit to the refugees was discussed. Inner Line Permit is required in Arunachal Pradesh for non-locals to travel and work. The issue of depriving the refugees of certain rights like ownership of land was also taken up as part of the measures to reach a workable solution, an official said, adding that such a move will need to be examined by the top court.
Blaming the Congress for the current situation, Rijiju said, “The 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.
Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in erstwhile East Pakistan. They were forced to migrate when it was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in 1960.
The Chakmas, who are Buddhists, and Hajongs, who are Hindus, faced religious persecution in East Pakistan and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram).
Subsequently, the Centre moved a majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency, which is now Arunachal Pradesh. According to official estimates, the number of these refugees has increased from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to one lakh.
Presently, they do not have citizenship and land rights but are provided basic amenities by the state government. The apex court had in 2015 directed the Centre to grant citizenship to these refugees.
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