Bid to deport 60,000 Chakmas from Arunachal slammed

Assam must not be dumping ground of ‘unwanted people of the Northeast’, Chakma organisations say.

Published - August 23, 2021 02:31 pm IST - GUWAHATI:

Chakma organisations have slammed the proposed deportation of 60,000 people belonging to the Chakma and Hajong communities from Arunachal Pradesh.

They have also said other States in India, specifically Assam, must not be the dumping ground of “unwanted people of the Northeast” although 94% of the Chakmas and Hajongs settled in present-day Arunachal Pradesh by the Government of India in the 1960s are Indians by birth.

In a statement on August 23, the Chakma Rights and Development Organisation (CRDO) expressed concern over Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s Independence Day speech and Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju’s ‘warnings’ during his ‘Jan Ashirvad Yatra’ in the State.

While Mr. Khandu said “all illegal immigrant Chakmas will be moved and settled outside Arunachal Pradesh with honour, and this matter has already been taken up and discussed with Union Home Minister Amit Shah”, Mr. Rijiju said there should be “no confusion about the fact” that Chakmas and Hajongs “will not be allowed to subsist or live in Arunachal Pradesh”.

The Chakma and Hajong people were brought by the Government of India from Chittagong Hill Tracts (now in Bangladesh) 1,200 km away from 1964-68 and rehabilitated in the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) that became Arunachal Pradesh later on, the CRDO said.

“The rehabilitation was under a centrally-sponsored plan following a series of discussions between the representatives of the Central government, the NEFA administration and local tribal leaders,” the organisation’s president Mahendra Chakma said.

“We are very worried about our future as we and our forefathers have suffered long enough because of partition. We oppose any move to disturb, dismember or dislodge the Chakma community from the State any further,” the Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Gaonburah (village headman) Association said.

The New Delhi-based Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI) submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Shah, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagat, Mr. Khandu and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma rejecting the resettlement plan.

The CDFI pointed out that 94% of the Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh were Indian citizens by birth and that Mr. Rijiju was wrong in saying the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019 was enacted to overrule the Supreme Court’s 1996 judgment granting citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs.

“This is nothing but an act of racial profiling of the Chakmas and Hajongs. This is proven from a number of actions of the State government, which granted citizenship to the Lisus/Youbins who migrated to Arunachal Pradesh in 1960s en masse through a notification on January 18, 1994,” CDFI founder Suhas Chakma said.

“Citizenship to the Lisus is absolutely illegal because under the Citizenship Act of 1955, each applicant has to submit his or her application individually and there is no provision in the Citizenship Act to declare a category of people as “citizens” en masse. Further, Arunachal Pradesh implements special programmes for the Tibetan refugees but no question was raised,” he said.

The CDFI said the move to settle the Chakmas and Hajongs outside of Arunachal Pradesh, mainly in Assam, proved that the communities were being targeted because of their ethnicity.

“If the Chakmas and Hajongs are ejected from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam shall be the dumping ground for all the unwanted communities in the States covered by the Inner-Line Permit (Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland besides Arunachal Pradesh) and the Sixth Schedule areas (Meghalaya). The Centre must not create more conflicts nor must it aid the creation of ethnocentric States,” the CDFI said.

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