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Chakma, Hajong refugees to get Indian citizenship

Chakma, Hajong refugees to get Indian citizenship

The Modi Government in New Delhi on Wednesday made a decision to grant citizenship to around one lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees living in Arunachal Pradesh since last five decades.

The issue of granting citizenship was discussed at a meeting convened by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and attended by Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Image courtesy Twitter
Image courtesy Twitter

The apex court had in 2015 directed the Centre to grant citizenship to these refugees.

At least 100,000 Chakma and Hajong refugees, staying in Arunachal Pradesh for over 50 years, are set to get Indian citizenship. "The Congress settled the Chakmas in Arunachal, they should have settled them somewhere else", said Junir Home Minister Kiren Rijiju, who is from Arunachal Pradesh. The central government is trying to find a workable solution by proposing that the refugees will not be given rights, including land ownership, enjoyed by scheduled tribes in Arunachal Pradesh.

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Amid growing global discontent over India's decision to deport Rohingya Muslim refugees, the country has granted citizenship to over a hundred thousand Chakma (Buddhists), and Hajong (Hindus) refugees who fled erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to India during the 1960s.

The Chakmas, who are Buddhists, and Hajongs, who are Hindus, faced religious persecution in East Pakistan and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). The state government moved the top court against the order. Rijiju had said that the Rohingyas were illegal immigrants and stand to be deported. As of now there are an estimated one lakh such refugees in the Northeast, with a majority of them settled in Arunachal Pradesh.

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They may, however, be given "Inner Line permits" which are required for non-locals in Arunachal Pradesh to travel and work.

Indigenous tribal communities fear that they would be reduced to a minority and deprived of opportunities if the refugees are given equal rights. After the Supreme Court's rejection, both the Central and state governments started consultations to find a solution to the issue.

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In contrast, the Centre has taken a tough stand against the Rohingya refugees. The order was met with opposition from political parties and other groups, including the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) which claimed the Chakmas and the Hajongs had moved out of their camps and encroached on thousands of hectares of forest land. "They are not recognised by either the Indian or Bangladeshi governments and therefore do not qualify for assistance", said World Vision India's Director of Disaster Management Kunal Shah.