Unions threaten to boycott polls over enrollment of refugees in electoral rolls

Staff Reporter
ITANAGAR, Nov 1: Five student organisations from various refugee-affected districts of the state have demanded that the state government issue specific orders to Chakmas and Hajongs who have enrolled their names in the electoral rolls to surrender their refugee identity cards and land (in the refugee camps), or face boycott of the general elections in 2019.
The organisations include the All Papum Pare District Students’ Union (APPDSU), the All Namsai District Students’ Union, the All Changlang District Students’ Union, the All Tai-Khamti Singpho Students’ Union, and the All Tangsa Students’ Union.
The unions said they would be “compelled to boycott the general elections in 2019 in the affected constituencies of their respective districts” if the government fails to take an initiative in the matter.
Briefing reporters at the press club here on Thursday, APPDSU president Nabam Tado said 4,265 Chakma and Hajong names have been listed in the electoral rolls of Arunachal Pradesh, in the Doimukh, Chowkham, Bordumsa-Diyun, and Miao assembly constituencies, till 2017.
The Chakmas and Hajongs, Tado said, were enrolled in the electoral rolls of these constituencies under the guidelines of the Election Commission of India (ECI), adding that the enrolled Chakmas and Hajongs are illegally enjoying Indian citizenship status as well as refugee status, besides enjoying land rights in the refugee settlement areas.
Accusing the government of not passing specific directions to the election roll officers (ERO) and the district electoral officers (DEO) before enrolling Chakmas and Hajongs, Tado said: “By virtue of electoral enrollment, those Chakmas and Hajongs have become citizens of India. But the state government has not issued any specific direction to the EROs and DEOs of the Chakma-Hajong affected districts to collect their refugee identity cards at the time of issuing electoral photo identity cards, so they don’t enjoy dual status illegally.”
Opposing the dual status, Tado said the government could easily retrieve the refugee cards and end the dual status the Chakma-Hajongs are currently benefiting from.
He informed that the unions had approached the EROs with Objection Form 7 to have the refugees’ names deleted, but were told that “bulk applications were not accepted.”
“The ECI is not the appropriate authority to grant citizenship through electoral enrollment. The state government has to clear its stand on it,” said Tado.
He clarified that their demand was not violating any laws, and that the state government could legally take back the refugee cards.
On whether this would open the gate for the demand of APST status, Tado said, “We are left with no option. The ECI guidelines are such that it would be extremely difficult to delete the names from the electoral rolls even if our objection applications were accepted one by one.”
The organisations had also met Chief Minister Pema Khandu in mid-2017 over the issue, and the chief secretary had subsequently called a meeting on it.
However, Tado said, among the deputy commissioners from the affected districts, the capital complex deputy commissioner was the only one to be invited to the meeting.
“No action has been initiated thereafter,” he said.