The Union Home Ministry will soon grant citizenship to nearly one lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees, who came from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) five decades ago and are living in northeast.
Government’s decision comes in line with Supreme Court order in 2015 in this regard. The apex country had directed Union government to grant citizenship to these refugees, mostly staying in Arunachal Pradesh.
Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of Chittagong Hill Tracts in erstwhile East Pakistan. They had fleed their homeland after it was submerged by Kaptai dam project in 1960s. Chakmas are Buddhists by faith and Hajongs are Hindus. They had faced religious persecution in East Pakistan and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now in Mizoram). Later, Union Government had shifted majority of them to North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now Arunachal Pradesh. Since then, their numbers have gone up from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to 1 lakh. At present, they don’t have citizenship and land owning rights but are provided basic amenities by Arunachal Pradesh Government.
Supreme Court Order
In 2015, the Supreme Court had given deadline to Union Government to confer citizenship to these refugees within three months. Later, Arunachal Pradesh Government moved to top court against the order. However, the apex court rejected Arunachal Pradesh Government’s plea. Since then state and the Centre began consultations on the issue.
Opposition to citizenship
Several organisations and civil society in Arunachal Pradesh are opposing granting citizenship to refugees saying it would change demography of state and would reduce indigenous tribal communities to minority and deprive them of opportunities. The Union Government is trying to find workable solution by proposing that these refugees will not be given rights to own land, which are exclusively enjoyed by Scheduled Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. However, Government may be given Inner Line permits (required for non-locals to travel and work in three states Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland).