The vexed Chakma-Hajong refugee issue is back to haunt the government of Arunachal and the people of the state. The recent flare-up between the locals and Chakma settlers in Kathan in Lohit district once again highlights the seething refugee problem that has the potential to wreak havoc in the state. The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), which has been spearheading the anti-refugee movement for the last many years, has appealed to the state government to constitute a state-level high-powered committee to “contain the continuous influx and encroachment by illegal Chakma immigrants, and to identify their original allotted blocks” within seven days. The AAPSU’s appeal for identifying the original land allotted to the Chakmas and Hajongs for settlement is welcome.
For long, the main contentious issue between the local indigenous people and the refugee settlers has been land. The locals allege that the refugees have settled beyond the original land allotted to them, whereas the Chakmas have outright rejected such allegations. Only a proper survey will bring out the truth. All parties, including the refugee settlers and the indigenous people, should welcome such a move to identify the original land allotted to the Chakmas and Hajongs. The state government should consider this appeal on priority. The more this vexed issue is ignored, the more it is going to cause trouble for the state in the long run. Successive governments have continued to overlook the refugee issue. The citizenship issue is in the Supreme Court and the legal battles will continue. However, the state government can still work out some solution at the local level which is acceptable to both the refugee settlers and the indigenous population. This will keep the situation under control.