Centre to decide citizenship for Chakmas, Hajongs on Wednesday

Centre to decide citizenship for Chakmas, Hajongs on Wednesday

Union Home Minister Rajanth Singh will on Wednesday hold discussions with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu over granting of citizenship to over 50,000 Chakma and Hajong refugees staying in the state for over 50 years.

The meeting is set to be organised here, sources said.

Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of erstwhile East Pakistan, who had to flee when their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s. The Chakmas, who are Buddhist, and 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 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.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, had recently raised the citizenship issue at a Northeast meet chaired by Rajnath Singh.

In 2015, the central government was given a deadline by the Supreme Court to confer citizenship to these refugees within three months.

The state government approached the apex court in appeal against the order but in vain. It was then that consultations started in earnest between the state and the central government on the issue.

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