Chakmas, Hajongs reject relocation move, demand permanent resolution to refugee issue

ITANAGAR, 24 Aug: The Chakma and Hajong communities in Arunachal said that they outright reject any idea, suggestion or proposal to relocate them outside the state, and demanded that the longstanding (Chakma-Hajong) refugee issue be fully and permanently resolved at the earliest by providing full rights to them as Indian citizens in Arunachal.

“We totally reject any idea or suggestion or proposal to relocate the Chakmas and Hajongs outside the state of Arunachal and strongly demand unconditional withdrawal of statements made in this regard, which have caused enormous fear and insecurity in the minds of the Chakmas and Hajongs,” said five Chakma and Hajong CBOs in a joint press statement.

During his recent Independence Day speech here, Chief Minister Pema Khandu stated that his government is in active discussion with the Centre for shifting the “illegal immigrants” among the Chakmas out of Arunachal, and that Chakmas cannot be allowed to stay in the state because they are non-tribals.

Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju also made statements on different occasions, including in public gatherings and TV interviews, that Chakma and Hajong communities will be shifted out of Arunachal in consultation with the central government, the five organizations – the Committee for Citizenship Rights of Chakmas & Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh, the Chakma Rights & Development Organization, the Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Students’ Union, the Chakma Women Welfare Society, AP and the Chakma Youth Federation of Arunachal – said in the statement.

They said that delegates of the Chakma and Hajong communities had attended a high-level meeting in Itanagar on 20 February last year, which was also attended by union Home Minister Amit Shah, Kiren Rijiju (now union law minister), then DoNER minister Jitendra Prasad Singh, Chief Minister Khandu and others.

“In that meeting, the issue of shifting or relocation of the Chakmas and Hajongs from Arunachal Pradesh was never discussed. In fact, the entire discussion was focused on finding permanent and amicable solution to the Chakma-Hajong issue within the territory of Arunachal. Hence, the claims made by Rijiju are totally incorrect and bogus,” they said.

They demanded that the Centre and the state government fully respect and implement the rulings of the Supreme Court in the NHRC vs State of Arunachal Pradesh & Others, wherein direction was issued for processing of citizenship applications of the Chakmas and Hajongs, which the state government as well as the union government failed to comply with.

They further demanded that the state government restore all the rights and privileges to the two communities which they had enjoyed till 1980, and that all economic and social welfare programmes of the central as well the state government be extended to the people of the Chakma and Hajong communities across the state without any discrimination.

They also demanded enrolment of all eligible Chakmas and Hajongs in the voter list without discrimination.

Claiming that about 90 percent of Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens of India by birth under Section 3 of the Citizenship Act of 1955, they said, “There is not a single Chakma or Hajong who are illegally settled in Arunachal as per our best knowledge.”

With regard to the CAA, they said it does not apply in Arunachal, especially to the Chakma and Hajong communities, as it (CAA) is meant to recognize the illegal immigrants who came to India as on 31 December, 2014.

“Since the Chakmas and Hajongs had been legally settled by the government of India in consultation with the local authorities during 1964-69, the CAA is not applicable to them,” they said.

They demanded that the Centre, the Arunachal government and the constitutional authorities abide by the constitution, particularly Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination by the state on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) while dealing with the situation of the Chakmas and Hajongs with compassion and sensitivity.

The organizations called upon the state government to create an environment conducive to the development of the Chakmas and Hajongs, who they said wish to live peacefully with other communities with mutual respect and dignity and contribute to the overall progress of the state as responsible citizens.