August 30, 2021
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Good morning. The COVID-19 pandemic has just messed up our lives. But here is some good news. Our battle against it is growing steadier by the day.

India has completed administering the first dose of vaccine for more than 50% of its adult population. India’s adult population is 940 million. Of those, more than 473 million have received their first dose. Here’s hoping for a safer future!


Should Chakmas and Hajongs be relocated from Arunachal Pradesh?

Imagine being a refugee in a country. You escaped persecution from your home country and ended up at the new place. After several years, you are granted citizenship in your new country. But the locals do not want you to settle down in their land. So, the government chooses to relocate you to another place within the country, after all these years. Would you feel wronged? The Chakmas and Hajongs do.

The Chakmas and Hajongs are people who were compelled to flee Bangladesh in the 1960s. They sought refuge in India and eventually settled in Arunachal Pradesh. Recently, the Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu announced that all of these ‘illegal immigrants’ would be relocated outside the state. Many people have hailed the government’s statement. However, the Chakmas strongly oppose the proposed deportation and say they are not illegal immigrants.


Around 1964, the Chakmas and Hajongs felt the need to escape from Bangladesh. There were mainly two reasons for this. One, they became landless as the Kaptai Dam was being built on their properties. Two, they encountered religious persecution. Now, the Chakmas are Buddhists and the Hajongs are Hindus. As both the communities were not Muslisms and did not speak Bengali, they felt threatened in Bangladesh. So there was nothing they could do but reach the borders of India. 

The Indian government agreed to take them in and set refugee camps for them in the North East Frontier Agency(NEFA). Things took a sharp turn in 1972, when NEFA became Arunachal Pradesh. The locals began opposing the refugees. Since then, the Chakmas and Hajongs have been facing the heat from the natives. 

But the Chakmas did not lose hope. They demanded Indian citizenship under a 1972 pact which said any Bangladeshi who entered India before 1971 was eligible for citizenship. However, a very unfortunate event took place in 1994. The Arunachal Pradesh government tried to push the two groups into Assam. Alas, they were forced back by Assam too. What’s worse? The then Assam CM Hiteshwar Saikia issued a “shoot at sight” order to stop the inflow of these people into Assam. Right when life was becoming miserable for both the communities, the Supreme Court intervened in 1996 and again in 2015, and granted Indian citizenship to the Chakma-Hajongs. Well, if not all, at least some of them were able to avail citizenship. 

So, if they have been granted citizenship, why are there talks of deporting them? Arunachal Pradesh government says the law does not allow permanent settlement of non-indigenous tribes in the state. But leaders from the groups say their settlement is legal and they should not be deported.

Chakmas & Hajongs should be relocated

We already established how the locals were never in favour of the Chakmas and Hajongs settling in their land. Maybe it was because they were never intimated about their arrival. Let alone asking the people if they were ready to accommodate newcomers, the government did not even inform them about the refugees. This has been a point of contention for a long time. 

Now, these two tribes are put up majorly in three districts of the state. Even so, their population is predicted to be more than the indigenous tribes. When they arrived in 1964, there were around 14,000 people in all. But currently, the Chakmas and Hajongs are more than 65,000 people. Off the record, their population is estimated to be more than one lakh. This means they have outnumbered many local communities who constitute a population of around 7,000 to 30,000 only. If this trend continued, there would be massive demographic and political changes. So the sooner they are deported to another state, the safer the indigenous community will remain. 

Meanwhile, the Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju emphasized that as per the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, no foreigner settled in the state is entitled to a permanent residence. According to him, the CAA had the power to overrule the Supreme Court’s earlier judgement regarding citizenship to the two tribes. Thus, the Chakmas and Hajongs will be deported elsewhere and the rights of the indigenous people will be protected. 

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Khandu said relocating the tribes would bring a peaceful resolution to the refugee issue. He mentioned that the Chakmas and Hajongs were suffering a lot in Arunachal Pradesh. Therefore, relocating them would be a win-win situation for the two communities and the indigenous tribes as well.

Chakmas & Hajongs should not be relocated

The biggest question posed by the Chakmas and Hajongs is why the relocation should happen at all. Nearly 96% of the tribes have been officially recognized as Indian citizens according to Section 3 of the Citizenship Act. They were born and raised in Arunachal Pradesh. So why would they have to be deported to some other state? 

The Chakmas and Hajongs have gone through a lot of trouble. In this scenario, they do not want to restart their lives in another state. Another mass migration would add on to their long list of sufferings, says the Chakma Rights and Development Organisation. As it is, they are deeply hurt that they were being branded as refugees even after living for 57 years in the soil and receiving citizenship. 

On legal grounds, the proposal to deport the two communities is ‘unlawful.’ Since the Chakmas and Hajongs entered India in the 1960s, they have been governed by the Citizenship Act, 1955. They were granted citizenship by the Supreme Court after reports by the Asian Centre for Human Rights showed that the communities were not a threat to the indigenous people. But the state government had not processed applications, which in itself was legally wrong. 

The Chakma Development Foundation of India expressed that the communities were being targeted solely because of their ethnicity. The community thinks this is an ‘act of racial profiling.’ Take for instance, the CAA reference by the law minister. The Act does not apply to Arunachal Pradesh in general. Moreover, the CAA is supposed to identify only illegal migrants who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. But the Chakmas and Hajongs were legally settled by the Indian government during the 1960s itself. Therefore, the CAA is not relevant to the communities.  

While it is not yet confirmed, rumors say that the communities will be deported to Assam. In this situation, people within the community have voiced out that dumping “unwanted people of the northeast” into another state was uncalled for. It could create more conflicts and lead to an ethnocentric division of states.


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