GUWAHATI: The Chakmas in the Northeast stand opposed to the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 but for a different reason.
Their apex body, All India Chakma Social Forum (AICSF), said it was opposed the bill as it had become an instrument to vilify the community as “foreigners” and beneficiaries of the bill despite the Chakmas being citizens of India and notified as Scheduled Tribes by the President of India in 1950 in Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
“There were 2.2 lakh Chakmas in India as per 2011 census. Out of these 96,972 Chakmas were in Mizoram, 79,813 in Tripura and 2,032 in Assam and in all these states, Chakmas are citizens of India,” AICSF general secretary Paritosh Chakma said.
He said the Chakmas have been living in the western belt of Mizoram from time immemorial and a portion of then Chittagong Hill Tracts (now in Bangladesh) covering the current western belt of Mizoram inhabited by the Chakmas was included into the Lushai Hills (erstwhile Mizoram) in 1898 for administrative purposes.
“The Chakmas were accorded the Chakma Autonomous District Council (in Mizoram) under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India in 1972. There is not a single Chakma foreigner residing in Mizoram as per the statement of then (Mizoram) Home Minister R Lalzirliana in the Assembly on November 15, 2017,” Chakma said.
Stating that there are 47,073 Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh as per the 2011 census, he claimed most of them are citizens by birth as per the existing Citizenship Act 1955.
“There are about 4,500 surviving Chakma and Hajong migrants who migrated during 1964-69 and their citizenship applications are not being processed despite two Supreme Court judgments and monitoring by the Supreme Court. The Citizenship Bill is not applicable to the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal even though there are acts of racial discrimination and non-compliance with the Supreme Court orders,” he alleged.
“There is a vested interest to vilify the Chakmas in the Northeast. Since the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, whenever Chakmas sought refuge in India, they were always housed in camps in Tripura and repatriated to Bangladesh with the last repatriation taking place in 1998 following the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord of 1997. The Chakmas are the only group of refugees in India who have always been kept in camps and repatriated to Bangladesh while all other refugees, whether Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils and Chins and Rohingyas from Myanmar, have never been repatriated to their country of origin,” Chakma lamented.