Chakmas, Hajongs demand residential proof certificates

NEW DELHI, 8 Dec: Hundreds of members of the Chakma and Hajong communities, along with others, staged a protest at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday, demanding restoration of their residential proof certificates (RPC), which were withdrawn by the Arunachal Pradesh government last year.

The protestors alleged that they have always faced systemic discrimination and neglect by the Arunachal government, the latest being the cancellation of their RPCs.

The protestors slammed the move, stating that Chakmas and Hajongs “will be deprived of admission in educational institutions and livelihood, which will be death knell for these two communities since Arunachal Pradesh had already banned employment for Chakmas and Hajongs in the state long back.”

They said that many Chakmas and Hajongs are earning their livelihoods by working in private companies, factories, retail sector, etc, and serving the country by entering into the defence forces, using RPCs.

“The withdrawal of the residential proof certificate of Chakmas and Hajongs by the state government of Arunachal Pradesh is totally unlawful and unjust,” Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Students’ Union (APCSU) president Drishya Muni Chakma said in a release.

He said that “there are a lot of mis-propaganda about the Chakmas and Hajongs.”

“The fact is that, during 1964-69, the Chakmas and Hajongs had fled then East Pakistan due to religious persecution and displacement by the Kaptai hydroelectric dam and they were settled permanently in then North East Frontier Agency, which is now the state of Arunachal Pradesh, by the government of India under a ‘definite plan of rehabilitation’. The central government had provided them land rights and other facilities, but all government privileges such as employment,

 ration cards and voting rights were gradually taken away by the state government,” the APCSU leader stated.

“The Chakmas and Hajongs are neither illegal people, nor foreigners, nor refugees, but bonafide Indian citizens and permanent residents of Arunachal Pradesh,” Chakma said.

He said that the Gauhati High Court, vide a judgment dated 19.03.2013 in PIL No 52 of 2010, held that the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR), 1873, or ILP, shall not apply to the Chakmas and Hajongs because they are permanently settled in Arunachal by the competent authority.

“Hence, the decision to withdraw the RPCs and to issue temporary settlement certificates (TSC) to them is totally illegal and illogical,” the APCSU leader said.

Arunachal Pradesh Hajong Students’ Union president Raghunath Hajong also strongly condemned the cancellation of the RPCs.

Hajong said that “the action of the Arunachal government to cancel our RPCs is totally illegal and inhuman.

“RPC does not in any manner take away, dilute or infringe upon the rights and privileges of the local indigenous communities, because RPC is not even entertained for state government employment. It is only used for education and livelihood purposes outside the state of Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.

“Cancellation of the RPC document is nothing but a crime against humanity as the decision will be a death knell for Chakmas and Hajongs. If the youths don’t get education or jobs due to lack of a residential proof document, it will only deepen the existing vicious cycle of poverty,” said APCSU general secretary Sonjit Chakma.

The two student bodies have sought support from the people of Arunachal and the rest of India “to convince the state government to restore the RPCs at the earliest, so that the future of the youths does not suffer.”

They also sought urgent intervention of the central government in the matter.

They said that the state government had on 27.10.2022 issued an order directing the Changlang DC that “All residential proof certificates issued in Changlang district since inception be cancelled by issuing a speaking order.”

Pursuant to this, the DC issued an order on 14.11.2022, to the effect that “all residential proof certificates issued in Changlang district since inception by ADC, Bordumsa/Miao and EAC, Diyun stands cancelled respectively with immediate effect.”

The order recalled all the RPCs issued so far, and further asked all the DCs and ADCs, heads of departments and offices of the Arunachal government “not to honour or entertain residential proof certificates” of the Chakmas and Hajongs.

“In lieu of the RPCs, TSCs shall be issued to the Chakmas and Hajongs after proper verification of their refugee settlement block,” the order read.