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Posted at: Sep 13, 2017, 3:44 PM; last updated: Sep 13, 2017, 9:53 PM (IST)

Govt to grant citizenship to Chakma, Hajong refugees

Govt to grant citizenship to Chakma, Hajong refugees
Chakma activists staging a protest in Guwahati. — PTI file photo
Mukesh Ranjan

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 13

Even as Centre talking tough on 40,000 “illegal immigrants” Rohingya Muslims, who have come from Myanmar, the government on Wednesday said that it will soon grant citizenship to nearly one lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees, who came from the erstwhile East Pakistan five decades ago and are living in camps in the North-East.

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According to a senior Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) official, the Chakma-Hajong refugee issue was “discussed threadbare" today at a high-level meeting convened by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval among others.

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In 2015, the Supreme Court had directed the Central government to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees, mostly staying in Arunachal Pradesh. “The Supreme Court order on Chakmas and Hajongs was discussed in the meeting. We need to implement the order as early as possible,” the official said.
Several organisations and civil society in Arunachal Pradesh have been opposing citizenship to the refugees saying it would change the demography of the state.

The Centre is trying to find a workable solution to the issue by proposing that Chakma and Hajong refugees will not be given rights, including ownership of land, enjoyed by Scheduled Tribes in Arunachal Pradesh, the official informed, adding that they, however, might be allowed to have Inner Line permits, required for non-locals in Arunachal Pradesh to travel and work.

Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of Chittagong Hill Tracts in the erstwhile East Pakistan. They left their homeland when it was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s.

The Chakmas, who are Buddhists, and the Hajongs, who are Hindus, also allegedly faced religious persecution and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). The Centre had then moved the majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now Arunachal Pradesh.

According to officials in the MHA, their numbers have gone up from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to one lakh. At present, they don’t have citizenship and land rights but are provided basic amenities by the state government.


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