Amidst the uproar over Rohingya Muslims, almost one lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees, who came from the erstwhile East Pakistan five decades ago, now living in camps in the Northeast are set to get Indian citizenship.
The Supreme Court had in 2015 directed the central government to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees, who migrated to India from the erstwhile East Pakistan five decades ago and are mostly staying in Arunachal Pradesh. "We condemn the Centre's decision to confer citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees as we fear it will lead to demographic changes in the state's tribal population", an AAPSU leader in Delhi said, airing a its opposition to such a status and iterating the demography-linked concern voiced earlier by the union and other local organisations.
Subsequently, the Centre moved a majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency, which is now Arunachal Pradesh. However, the rights of the indigenous people of the Northeast will not be diluted, he added.
Amid growing worldwide 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 are Buddhists; the Hajongs are Hindus.
Rohingya Muslims, who came to India due to persecution in Myanmar, are not as lucky as the Chakma and Hajong refugees. "The refugees have already outnumbered the local population especially in Diyun and Bordumsa areas under Changlang district and with granting of citizenship they will get political rights in the state", Dai pointed out.
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The Home Minister has indicated that to prevent that, the Chakma will not be allowed to own land.
Meanwhile, Mr Rijiju criticised attempts to label India as a "villain" on the Rohingya controversy as these illegal migrants have been described as a potential security threat.
The Arunachal Pradesh government had challenged the top court order to no avail, after which both the Central and state governments started consultations to find a solution to the issue.
According to officials, their numbers have gone up from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to one lakh. "But they might be given Inner Line permits, required for non-locals to travel and work in the state", another ministry official said.
"Keeping the Supreme Court order in mind, we will protect the rights of the indigenous people", said the Junior Home Minister, though he promised a balancing act.
The Arunachal Pradesh government approached the apex court to review its 2015 order but in vain.
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