GUWAHATI: The Arunachal Pradesh government’s move to relocate the Chakmas and the Hajongs, who trace their roots to Bangladesh, has triggered mixed reactions.
The influential All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) welcomed the move and described it as historic. Chakma leaders, however, claimed 96% of the Chakmas and the Hajongs of Arunachal are citizens of India as per Section 3 of the Citizenship Act.
“Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s recent statement that the Chakmas and the Hajongs would be relocated outside Arunachal is historic. The students and the people of the state have been for long fighting this,” AAPSU general secretary Tobom Dai said.
Displaced by a dam in the then East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh), the Buddhist Chakmas and the Hindu Hajongs were resettled in Arunachal during 1964-69 by the central government.
The AAPSU said the “illegal Chakma and Hajong immigrants” were brought to Arunachal without taking the state’s indigenous populace into confidence.
The indigenous communities are opposed to the settlement of the people for reasons including the “perilous demographic” changes which allegedly occurred in the districts where they are settled and their alleged aggressive attitude towards the ethnic tribes.
The fresh controversy erupted following Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s Independence Day speech that the “illegal Chakma immigrants” would be relocated outside Arunachal with honour. He had said the issue was already discussed with the central government.
Earlier this week, the Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI) had petitioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to reject Arunachal’s move to relocate “60,000” Chakmas and Hajongs to other states.
The CDFI said Chakmas, Hajongs, and ex-Assam Rifles personnel were settled in the then centrally-administered North East Frontier Agency in defence of the country following the 1962 Indo-China war.
The foundation said Khandu had spoken about the resettlement of the Chakmas and the Hajongs outside Arunachal while Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju stated the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019 was enacted to undo the Supreme Court judgment of 1996 granting the Chakmas and the Hajongs citizenship and as such, the Chakmas must not have any illusion and they would have to leave the state.
“This is nothing but an act of racial profiling of the Chakmas and the Hajongs. This is proven from a number of actions of the state government. Arunachal had granted citizenship to the Lisus/Youbins who migrated in the 1960s en masse…
“This grant of citizenship to the Lisus is absolutely illegal because under the Citizenship Act of 1955, each applicant has to submit his/her application individually and there is no provision in the Citizenship Act to declare a category of people as “citizens” en masse,” CDFI founder Suhas Chakma argued.
He pointed out that when Arunachal implemented special programmes for the Tibetan refugees, no question was raised.
It is still not clear as to which state or states the Arunachal government is going to relocate the Chakmas and the Hajongs and the position of the states in question on the issue.