R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Jan 9 – A major breakthrough has been achieved on the fate of the Chakma and Hajong refugees staying in Arunachal Pradesh as a high power committee today decided that those who came to India between 1964 to 1969 can be granted Indian citizenship.
Joint Secretary (North East) of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Sambhu Singh told The Assam Tribune after the meeting in Itanagar this evening that the issue has been creating controversy for years and a major breakthrough was achieved in the meeting today.
Singh said that the Government of India formed the committee to look into the issues pertaining to the citizenship issue of Chakma and Hajong refugees in 2010. Representatives from the Government of India and Government of Arunachal Pradesh as well as All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) and Citizenship Demand Committee for Chakma and Hajong refugees are members of the committee.
After a series of meetings, the Committee today arrived at a consensus that the Chakma and Hajong refugees, who came to India between 1964 and 1969 can be accepted as Indian citizens. Singh expressed the view that the agreement reached today could not have been any better.
The MHA official said that a joint committee of the AAPSU and the Citizenship Demand Committee of the Chakma and Hajong refugees would carry out a survey to identify those who came to India between 1964 to 1969 and submit its report by the end of February this year. The report would then be sent to the Government of India for its approval.
Singh appreciated the humanitarian and positive approach of the AAPSU for a permanent solution of the vexed problem. He also said that in today’s meeting, several members of the committee expressed deep concern on the “criminalization” among the refugees and called for measures to deal with the problem so that peace and tranquility in Arunachal Pradesh is not disturbed.
The MHA official further revealed that according to information available with the Government of India, the total population of the Chakma and Hajong refugees in Arunachal Pradesh is around 53,000. However, a number of them came to India after 1969.
The Chakma refugees started coming to India in 1964 from the Chittagong Hill Tracts area of Bangladesh following alleged harassment in the neighbouring country and they have been living in Arunachal Pradesh as “stateless citizens” since then. The issue created major controversy in Arunachal Pradesh and different organizations of the State including the AAPSU have been demanding that the refugees should be driven out of the State.
However, unable to take a decision on the fate of the refugees on its own, the Centre formed a committee to decide the fate of the refugees in 2010 and after series of talks, the committee today finally arrived at a decision in this regard. However, the fate of the Chakma refugees who came to India after 1969 is yet to be decided.