Chakma bodies urge Rijiju not to misinterpret CAA

ITANAGAR, 7 Jan: The Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI) and the Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Students’ Union (APCSU) have urged union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju not to misinterpret the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) with respect to the Chakmas and Hajongs settled in Arunachal Pradesh during 1964 to 1969.

“Firstly, the Chakmas and Hajongs are not refugees. The Chakmas and Hajongs had migrated and were permanently settled in the North East Frontier Agency, the competent authority during 1964 to 1969, ie, Union of India, including by allotting lands and grant of all facilities accorded to the citizens which had been snatched. Their citizenship issue was settled by the Supreme Court in its 1996 judgment in the case of the NHRC vs state of Arunachal Pradesh. The Chakma and Hajong migrants had submitted their citizenship applications under Section 5 of the 1955 Citizenship Act. They are citizens but denied so far because the state refuses to implement the judgment. The rest are citizens by birth as per Section 3 of the 1955 Citizenship Act. No law applies retroactively. Further, the CAA pertains to amendments under Section 6 B of the Citizenship Act. Therefore, the CAA has nothing to do with the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh,” said CDFI founder Suhas Chakma.

“The law minister of the country should be promoting the rule of law and respect for the majesty of the rule of law. Not a single citizenship application has been processed in the last 25 years after the 1996 Supreme Court. The law minister of the country should be promoting the implementation of the judgment of the highest court of the country,” he said.

The CDFI also urged union Home Minister Amit Shah to make his purported plan for relocation of the Chakmas and Hajongs outside the state public “as both chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh Pema Khandu and union Law Minister Rijiju referred to him in their public interventions.”

“The proposed plan should be made public to dispel any illusion that the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh shall accept relocation after sixty years. The government of India must describe the rationale and raison d’etre for relocation in violations of the 1996 Supreme Court judgment. This proposed relocation plan has disturbed the harmony and resolution of the dispute arising out of acts of discrimination and no respect for the rule of law,” Chakma said.

 The APCSU said that the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal do not come under the ambit of the CAA.

“Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh do not come under the ambit of the CAA because the government of India legally brought the Chakmas and Hajongs during 1964-1969 and settled them permanently under ‘definite plan of rehabilitation’,” said APCSU general secretary Supon Chakma in a release.

“Under this plan, the government of India in consultation with the then NEFA administration (now Arunachal Pradesh) allotted 5 acres of land permanently to each Chakma and Hajong family and provided ration cards, jobs, gun licence, business licence, among others. The Chakmas and Hajongs came to NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) much before 31 December, 2014 as the cut-off year of the CAA and the Chakmas and Hajongs are governed by the Citizenship Act of 1955, not the CAA, 2019, and hence they do not come under CAA,” he said.

“The government of India settled the Chakmas and Hajongs in the then centrally-administered NEFA along with ex-Assam Rifles for the defence of India, following the 1962 India-China war because this point of time was very crucial and critical for defending India’s sovereignty, and therefore once they were settled permanently, the matter ends there,” the union added.

“Furthermore, majority of the Chakmas and Hajongs who born in Arunachal Pradesh during the period of nearly 60 years are citizens by birth under Section 3 of the Citizenship Act and what is legally needed now is to enroll them in voter list and provide them back all withdrawn facilities,” the union said.

“APCSU also always welcomed the CAA, exempting some of the northeastern states, including Arunachal Pradesh, so that no refugees intrude into Arunachal Pradesh after 2014 as cut-off year as per the CAA and rights of the indigenous are protected under the CAA,” it added.

APCSU president Drishyamuni Chakma condemned any plan to relocate the refugees to another state “because we have been living in Arunachal Pradesh for almost six decades, ie, 60 years, and we have built our home and hearth.”

“Arunachal Pradesh has become our motherland and relocating any Chakma-Hajong outside is not acceptable and honourable solution to this vexed issue and any relocation shall add more fuel to fire and prolong sufferings in human history,” the union said, adding that the “government’s initiative to resolve the vexed issue is welcomed but permanent solutions have to be ‘in toto’ in Arunachal Pradesh only.”