Grant citizenship to Chakma-Hajong Refugees within 3 months: Supreme Court

Sep 28, 2015 09:45 IST

The Supreme Court (SC) of India on 17 September 2015 directed the Union and Arunachal Pradesh Governments to grant citizenship to Chakma-Hajong refugees within three months.  The two refugees migrated to India from Bangladesh in 1964-69 and settled in the state.

The direction issued by of Justice AR Dave and AK Goel said that the two groups have a right to be granted citizenship subject to the procedure being followed and they cannot be discriminated in any manner.

It said that the two groups who were allowed to be rehabilitated under the decision of the Union Government could not be discriminated against in any manner pending formal conferment of rights of citizenship.

It directed the governments at two levels to take all necessary steps to protect them as they are facing hostility from the local population. It also asked the governments to ensure compliance of directions in judicial decisions for protection of their life and liberty against any kind of discrimination.

The verdict was passed on a petition filed by Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas (CCRC), who in its petition alleged that they were still being treated as foreigners despite living for more than 50 years in the state. The plea also said that they are being deprived from the benefits of various social welfare schemes including Public Distribution System.

What is Chakma-Hajong refugee Issue?
Chakma-Hajong refugees came to India after being displayed from the area which became part of East Pakistan (now in Bangladesh) on construction of Kaptai hydro-electric dam in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The then Indian Government allowed them to rehabilitate themselves in the country after they sought refuge to India.

In 1964, the Union Government temporarily resettled some 35000 Chakmas in the former North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA), in the areas that comprise the present day Lohit, Changlang and Papumpare districts of the State.

However, with the upgradation of NEFA into a full-fledged state of Arunachal Pradesh in 1987, the presence of Chakma-Hajong communities in the State is perceived by the locals as a potential threat to their indigenous tribal culture and traditions by the host tribal communities. The perceived threat has seen several campaigns like 'Quit Arunachal Pradesh' notice to the Chakma-Hajong settlers.

Viewing the potential threat by this group, the successive governments of the state started pressing for their deportation. On the other hand, the Chakma-Hajong communities have intensified their struggle for citizenship rights since the early 1990s and accused the State Government of human rights violations.

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