Pema, Ering write to HM on refugee issue
ITANAGAR, Sep 18: Days after being castigated by the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) for his alleged soft stand on the Chakma-Hajong refugee issue, Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju on Sunday said that it was the failure of the Arunachal Government for failing to evict the encroachers.
Speaking to media persons on the side line of a tree-plantation progammee at ISBT in Lekhi, Rijiju said, “Under no circumstances will we accept so many Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh. These illegal encroachers should be identified and evicted as soon as possible. I request the state government to start the eviction process. No extra people should be living in those areas.” Rijiju said.
The MoS said that initially 2,748 families and 14,888 people were settled between 1964 and 1969. How they have turned to 65,000 in population needs to be verified and identified.
“It is the failure of the Arunachal Pradesh Government. Why could the Government Arunachal Pradesh not evict those encroachers”, he questioned.
Asserting that he would not allow the indigenous peoples’ rights to dilute as long as he is a minister with the BJP Government at the Centre, Rijiju appealed to the people of Arunachal Pradesh and other human rights organisations to support him in the fight against the Chakma-Hajong citizenship issue.
He also appealed to the state government to start the process of eviction drive against those illegal occupants (Chakmas and Hajongs) who have encroached upon the land of the Namdapha National Park and other areas.
Rijiju further clarified, “It is not the decision of the Government of India to grant citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs, but an order of the Supreme Court and the Centre is trying to tell the Supreme Court that giving Chakmas and Hajongs the same rights as Arunachalese is not acceptable.
“The people of Arunachal should appreciate that it is for the first time that we (the government at Centre) did not agree to the Supreme Court direction and we are filing our affidavit to modify the orders”, he said.
Rijiju appealed to the people of Arunachal to stop politicizing the issues and rather stand united to fight for indigenous rights.
“I am now fighting with the Chakmas and Hajongs and other human rights organisations. I need my hand to be strengthened by the people of Arunachal Pradesh”, he said.
He, however, expressed displeasure that the situation was being manipulated by vested interest people to malign the BJP Government at the Centre.
He further asserted that he would not allow the Supreme Court directive to be implemented in toto because it is violative in nature to the indigenous rights.
On the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy, he refuted the allegation that his government brought the new policy and said that it was renewal of the same policy of 1959.
Meanwhile, in a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday, Chief Minister Pema Khandu said that the matter of granting citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees is of deep emotional concern and that the state is not ready to accept any infringement of the Constitutional protection bestowed on the tribal people of the state.
He reiterated the concerns of the people of Arunachal Pradesh on the vexed issue of granting citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees in the state and pointed that Arunachal Pradesh with its unique history is governed by a special Act, namely the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
The Act prescribes a line to be called the “Inner Line”, Section 2 of which prohibits all citizens of India or any class of such citizens from going beyond such line without a pass issued under the hand and seal of the CEO of such district or such officer authorized with such function.
“Further, Section 7 of the Regulation reads as, “It shall not be lawful for any person, not being a native of the district comprised in the preamble of this regulation, to acquire any interest in land or the product of land beyond the said “Inner Line”….,” Pema cited.
He added that Arunachal Pradesh is a predominantly tribal state and the Constitution of India gives special protection rights to the people of the state. These provisions were legislated with the singular objective to protect the tribes of the state from the onslaught of alien culture and overwhelming influx of non-Arunachalese in the state.
“Therefore, as mentioned by me in our meeting recently, I reiterate that the people of my state are not ready to accept any infringement on the Constitutional protection bestowed on the tribals of Arunachal Pradesh and want to ensure that the ethnic composition and the special rights enjoyed by the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are safeguarded at all cost,” Pema said in the letter.
He solicited the Home Minister’s support in protecting the tribal rights and securing the sanctity of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) in Arunachal Pradesh.
Further, Member of Parliament Ninong Ering said that the Chakma and Hajong refugees in Arunachal Pradesh must be rehabilitated outside the state, if they are granted citizenship.
Once they are granted Indian citizenship rights, they will no more be refugee and will become Indian citizens. Hence, like any other Indian citizen, they cannot be settled in the designated camps anymore, Ering stated in a letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
“Arunachal Pradesh has always been protected by the BEFR, 1873 where even Indians have to possess Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter the state,” Ering said.
He urged the Home Minister to treat the Chakma and Hajong refugees at par with any other Indian citizen after they are conferred with the citizenship and resettle them outside Arunachal Pradesh by adopting a rehabilitation policy.
“They have been our guests for more than 50 years. We looked after their welfare. Now, they are Indian citizens and they have to be treated at par with other normal citizens of the country. They cannot enjoy anymore the benefits they got being refugees,” the MP reasoned.