Citizenship Bill: Chakma and Hajong communities in a spot

Asserting rights: Members of a Chakma students’ association staging a protest. File

Asserting rights: Members of a Chakma students’ association staging a protest. File

The contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has put the spotlight on Bengali Hindus in Assam with Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma saying the community could help the Assamese people win 18 Assembly constituencies where Bengali Muslims are in a majority.

But in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, it’s the Buddhist Chakma community displaced from present-day Bangladesh in the 1960s that is facing protest.

Mizo perception

Southern Mizoram has had a sizeable Chakma population for ages. But there is a perception among the majority Mizos that many Chakmas have crossed over from the adjoining Chittagong hill tracts in Bangladesh following displacement by the Kaptai dam in the 1960s. Some came later along with some 2,000 Hajongs, who are Hindus, because of alleged religious persecution.

Nearly 5,000 Chakmas and a few Hajongs who had taken refuge in Mizoram — then the Lushai Hills part of Assam — were settled in Arunachal Pradesh. Indigenous groups in Arunachal Pradesh say their population has now increased to beyond 1,00,000 but the Chakmas and Hajongs say they are half that number.

“We are protesting against this Bill because it would serve as a legal basis for legitimising the claims of Chakma and Hajong refugees as the indigenous people of our State. It will also defeat various other regulations currently in force here,” Tobom Dai, general secretary of the influential All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union, said.

The Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8, seeks to grant citizenship to six minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and Christians — without valid documents from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of stay in India.

Apart from the Mizo National Front, the Mizoram unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party has opposed the Bill primarily with the Chakmas in mind. Mizo organisations have often served “quit notices” to Chakmas who had entered the State after 1950 but older residents have reportedly been targeted too.

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Printable version | May 27, 2022 7:34:39 am |