Only 5,097 of 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs have voting rights in Arunachal

Chakmas, who are predominantly Buddhists and Hajongs who are largely Hindus were among the earliest persecuted groups to have fled the then East Pakistan and migrated to India.
A voter gets her finger marked with indelible ink (File Photo | EPS)
A voter gets her finger marked with indelible ink (File Photo | EPS)

GUWAHATI: Arunachal Pradesh has 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs but only 5,097 of them have voting rights in the state, the state’s BJP government said on Wednesday.

The figures emerged from a special survey conducted by the deputy commissioners (district magistrates) of Changlang, Namsai and Papum Pare districts in 2015-16. According to another survey conducted in 2012, the state’s Chakma and Hajong population was stated to be 54,203.

Taking part in a discussion on the issue in the Assembly on Wednesday, Chief Minister Pema Khandu said the matter of their citizenship was sub-judice. He said the state government had submitted a special leave petition in the Supreme Court on September 14, 2016 which was accepted. He said hearing on the case was being awaited.

Rights activist Suhas Chakma, who belongs to Chakma community, said the “debate” reflected “xenophobia” against Chakmas and Hajongs in the state.

“Even though thousands of other people were settled by the Government of India in then NEFA (Arunachal and parts of Northeast) along with the Chakmas and Hajongs to beef up the security following the 1962 Indo-China War, only the issue of the Chakmas and Hajongs is raised while the rest continue to enjoy all rights as citizens of the country,” Chakma said.

Contrary to what the CM said, he claimed that the case of the Chakmas and Hajongs was not sub-judice before the SC as it had dismissed the review petition filed with respect to the case of National Human Rights Commission Vs State of Arunachal Pradesh.

“The judgment to grant citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs has achieved finality. It is the non-compliance with the said judgment which is under adjudication before the Supreme Court. If a state government takes pride in not-processing the citizenship applications and rejecting them en masse, it is nothing but the State promoting illegality and violations of fundamental rights with impunity. If India were a country governed by the rule of law, the officials would have been rotting in jails for the contempt of court for the non-compliance with the Supreme Court judgment,” the activist said.

The Chakmas are predominantly Buddhists while the Hajongs are largely Hindus. They were among the earliest persecuted groups to have fled the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and migrated to India. Their migration to Arunachal took place during 1964-69. Here, they are settled in Bordumsa-Diyun areas of Changlang district and Kokila area of Papum Pare district. They also have sizeable populations in Tripura and Mizoram.

These migrants insist that the threat perception that they will outnumber tribes, such as, Tangsa, Khampti, Nocte, Singpho and Mishmi, in Arunachal is without any basis.

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