[ Taba Ajum ]
ITANAGAR, Dec 10: As soon as the citizenship amendment bill (CAB) was passed in the Lok Sabha, BJP and RSS supporters in Arunachal, whom people on social media usually refer to as “local bhakts,” started urging the people of the state to trust union Home Minister Amit Shah’s assurance that the CAB would not affect Arunachal as the state has been exempted from its purview.
The union government had announced that the states under the inner line permit (ILP) regime, which include Arunachal, would be fully exempted from the CAB’s purview. However, there is no clarity over how the Chakma-Hajong refugee issue will be resolved under the CAB.
Shah had recently held a meeting with representatives of various political parties, NGOs and student bodies at Delhi over the CAB. North East Students’ Organization coordinator, Pritam Waii Sonam, who was part of the meeting, informed that Shah did not issue any clarification when the Chakma-Hajong refugee issue was raised during the meeting.
“I asked him how the government of India is going to deal with the Chakma-Hajong refugees once the CAB is brought in. He was reluctant to answer and did not clarify on the issue,” Sonam claimed.
“Therefore, in this context, it becomes very important to ask the state as well as the central government to make their stand clear on the refugee issue. The onus lies on Chief Minister Pema Khandu, MP Tapir Gao and union MoS (Independent) for Sports & Youth Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, to come out and clear the confusion,” he said.
The Chakmas (who are Buddhists) and the Hajongs (who are Hindus) are refugees from Bangladesh. Under the CAB they would be entitled to Indian citizenship. Back in the day, the government of India settled them in places like Diyun (in Changlang district), Chongkham (in Namsai) and Hollongi (in Papum Pare). While they have not been able to expand beyond the original land demarcated for them in the Nyishi belt, their settlements have spread over to other areas in Changlang and Namsai districts. Such is the situation today that hardly a few Singpho families live in Diyun, and the Chakmas are in majority there.
Over the years, the refugees have moved beyond their settlement areas and are entering into the Tangsa area in Miao (Changlang), and into the Mishmi belt in Khatan (Lohit). In Namsai district too, they are in big numbers. Officially, their population in the state is said to be 55,000, but unofficial estimates allege that they number around 1 lakh.
What is worrying is that, even today, there reportedly continues migration of Chakmas from states like Tripura to Arunachal, especially to the state’s eastern region. The vast fertile land is a big attraction for them. If this trend continues, in another 10 years the Chak-mas will become one of the largest groups in the state.
Look at the case of Tripura. Today, the indigenous tribal population in that state has become a minority, and Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh, who had arrived as refugees, rule the state. The chief minister’s and other powerful posts are held by the Bengalis. The indigenous Tripuri tribals are treated like second-class citizens in their own homeland.
Also, once the CAB is implemented, those who fail to get citizenship under it will illegally try to enter states like Arunachal. Assam is our immediate neighbour, and if the CAB affects them, it will naturally have an impact in Arunachal too.
Lastly, this bill violates Article 14 of the Indian constitution.
Considering the abovementioned points, the people of the state should be watchful and stop celebrating, thinking that after being exempted from its purview, the CAB will not affect us. Unless everything is properly clarified, for us there is more to worry about than to celebrate.
[ Taba Ajum ]