The Supreme Court has put both the Centre and Arunachal Pradesh government in a tight spot through its directive that citizenship be conferred on Chakma and Hajong refugees residing in the State within three months
Sources said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to submit a report at the earliest as to what steps it has taken in response to the apex court verdict.
Both the Congress and BJP have not made any statement so far even as the former was instrumental in settling the displaced Hajongs and Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh from 1964 to 1972. The BJP, on the other hand, has a sympathetic attitude towards minorities who faced religious persecution in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
There are around one lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Supreme Court on 17th September had directed the Centre and Arunachal Pradesh government to grant citizenship within three months to Chakma and Hajong tribals who had migrated from Bangladesh, saying they cannot be discriminated in any manner.
‘It is well-known that the Chakmas and Hajongs were displaced from the area which became part of East Pakistan (now in Bangladesh) on construction of the Kaptai Dam and were allowed to be rehabilitated by the Government of India’.
‘They could not be discriminated against in any manner pending formal conferment of rights of citizenship. Their status also stands duly acknowledged in the guidelines of the Election Commission of India,’ a bench of Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh K Goel had said.
The apex court said that Chakmas have a right to be granted citizenship and it is even ‘recognised by judicial decisions that they cannot be required to obtain any Inner Line Permit as they are settled in Arunachal Pradesh.’
Various civil societies in Arunachal Pradesh are believed to be upset with the Supreme Court ruling.
There is a state-level committee in Arunachal Pradesh headed by Secretary (Political) that looks after the Chakmas and Hajongs. Representatives of All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union and Chakmas are also members of the committee.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, had recently called a meeting in the MHA where he is reported to have stated that if the entire Chakmas and Hajongs living in Arunachal Pradesh were conferred Indian citizenship, it will adversely affect the demographic structure of the State, sources said.
He, therefore, proposed that a mechanism be worked out so that a large number of Chakmas living in Arunachal don’t get citizenship or they may be distributed to other states, the sources said.
Rijiju is reportedly upset with the State government for not fighting the case vigorously in the Supreme Court and not doing its homework properly leading to an adverse verdict