Soon after the Central government, as per Supreme Court’s verdict in 2015, announced granting citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees, several organisations of Arunachal Pradesh have made clear their resistance to the move. Over the past few days, normal life has been affected drastically across the state with the stand against the government’s decision acquiring momentum. Union Home Ministry headed by Rajnath Singh last week cleared the decks for citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees on the basis of the apex court’s directive. Among the group protesting against the government is the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU). The group had on September 19 called a 12-hour bandh to protest against the directive. According to a report by Indian Express, government offices, educational institutions, banks, markets and commercial establishments were closed across the state, while most public and private transport stayed off the roads.
Expressing their disagreement towards the issue, the AAPSU committee had described the government’s decision as an example of its indifferent attitude towards the problems of indigenous tribes and communities of the state. The committee had urged the people to send a clear message to both Centre and state government and also asked chief minister Pema Kandu to support their protest against the vexed issue.
Migrated from east Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in the 1960s after their lands were captured by the Kaptai dam project, Buddhist Chakma are ethnic group of people who were staying in the camps of North East India for more than five decades. While the Chakmas are Buddhists, the Hajongs are Hindus.
These refugees initially crossed over to the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). However, sensing a possibility of clash between the Mizos and the Chakmas, the government sent them to the Tirap division of North East Frontier Agency (NEFA, present-day Arunachal Pradesh). Protests against their presence erupted as soon as the new state was created.
Though they have been treated like refugees originally, the Government of India approved granting them citizenship under Section 5(i)(a) of the Citizenship Act on the basis of a joint statement by the PMs of India and Bangladesh in 1972. Arunachal Pradesh which was formed in the same year as a Union Territory immediately opposed government’s decision and still continues to do so.