Published On: Tue, Sep 19th, 2017
Politics | ByIANS

Will move SC for change in order on Chakma refugees: Rijiju

New Delhi: The Centre will move the Supreme Court to seek modification of its order to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees since it could unbalance the social and demographic structure of Arunachal Pradesh, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Tuesday.

The Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of erstwhile East Pakistan

The Minister of State for Home told reporters here that the Supreme Court would be apprised of the “ground reality” on the matter.

“The ground reality is that the Chakmas and Hajongs have entered settlement camps in Arunachal Pradesh illegally in large numbers. If the small original Chakmas population is given status of Arunachal tribals or as indigenous (people) of Arunachal Pradesh, it will (cause) imbalance in the social and demographic structure of the state,” he said.

“We have to impress upon the Supreme Court to understand the reality that it is not easy to implement its order because of the complexity of the situation,” Rijiju said.

The Minister said since he was an MP from Arunachal Pradesh he had to “stand for his people”.

The Supreme Court had in 2015 directed the central and Arunachal Pradesh governments to confer citizenship rights on the “eligible” Chakmas and Hajong people, coupled with steps to protect their lives and liberty and guard them against any discrimination.

The Home Ministry had last week cleared limited citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajong refugees.

Rijiju clarified that “granting citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs was not a government decision but a Supreme Court order”.

He said the Supreme Court should make the order on Chakmas and Hajongs implementable so that the rights of Arunachal Pradesh’s tribals were safeguarded.

“Once the Chakmas and Hajongs become citizens of India, they are entitled to live anywhere in the country. But Arunachal Pradesh is a protected territory — even an Indian citizen needs Inner Line Permit to enter the state. It is a constitutional safeguard,” Rijiju said.

The Minister flayed the previous Congress governments on the refugees issue.

“As many as 14,888 people were brought by the then government between 1964 and 1969 and settled in Arunachal Pradesh that was not as per the existing regulations. Now, more than one lakh Chakmas and Hajongs are residing illegally whereas the official figure is nearly 64,000,” Rijiju said.

He said their settlement in Arunachal was violative of the Bengal Eastern Regulation of 1873 and the central government has now to impress upon the apex court that this anomaly be corrected.

“While honouring the Supreme Court order, the status of the Chakmas and Hajongs cannot be put on the same footing with the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh… that is our sentiment and we will convince the court,” he said.

Asked why the Centre was appealing the Supreme Court’s 2015 order now, Rijiju said: “Because, we originally were not the party.”

“If we implement the court order, it will be violative of the constitutional rights of the tribals of Arunachal Pradesh. Their constitutional rights cannot be violated.”

The Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of erstwhile East Pakistan, who fled when their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam in the 1960s. The Chakmas, who are Buddhist, and the Hajongs, who are Hindus, also faced religious persecution in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

They entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). While some stayed back with the Chakmas already settled in the district, the Indian government moved a majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency, which is now Arunachal Pradesh.

The state government has argued that granting citizenship to refugees would reduce the indigenous tribal communities to a minority and deprive them of opportunities. Since 1990, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union has been demanding their ouster from the state.

According to officials, the number of these refugees has increased from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to one lakh. At present, they do not posses citizenship and land rights, but are provided basic amenities by the state government.

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