Chakma-Hajong logjam: Arunachal students protest in Delhi

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) Hundreds of students from Arunachal Pradesh staged a protest rally here on Friday against the Supreme Court’s ruling granting citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees from Bangladesh living in Arunachal Pradesh.

The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) activists staged a march in the heart of the city holding placards which read, among others: “Is Arunachal dumping ground for foreigners”, “If Arunachal is part of India, listen to the voice of Arunachalees” and “Despite China’s repeated claim(s), we have shown our patriotism, now where do we go?”

A series of agitational programmes, led by the AAPSU, have been organised in the northeastern state ever since the apex court ruled on September 17 that the Chakma and Hajong refugees should be granted citizenship.

The problem has been festering ever since the Chakma and Hajong refugees came to Arunachal Pradesh from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh in 1964 following the construction of the Kaptai Dam.

In fact, the AAPSU was formed in 1966 primarily to oppose the settling down of these refugees in the northeastern state. By the time Arunachal Pradesh became a state in 1987, the movement had assumed robust proportions.

Though the refugees had initially moved to the Lushai Hills of present-day Mizoram, most of them were shifted to Arunachal Pradesh — then known as Northeast Frontier Agency (NEFA) – which was then under the Assam governor.

According to a white paper published in 1996, the number of Chakma and Hajong refugees in Arunachal Pradesh has grown to over 60,000 from nearly 15,000 originally.

However, AAPSU claims the number has now crossed 100,000.

Though AAPSU is not against the granting of citizenship to the refugees, it wants that they should be issued the inner line permit (ILP) like in the case of any other Indian citizen visiting Arunachal Pradesh.

Apart from Arunachal Pradesh, the ILP, designed to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people, is in force in two other northeastern states — Mizoram and Nagaland.

The AAPSU claims it has not been made party to the process despite it carrying out the movement against the refugess.

According to Biru Nasi, AAPSU general secretary, after being approached by representatives of the Chakmas and Hajongs, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) told the Supreme Court that the AAPSU has been harassing the refugees.

“We filed an impleadment in the Supreme Court yesterday (Thursday) seeking that we (AAPSU) be made a party to the process,” Nasi told IANS at the rally site here.

“Based on what the Supreme Court says, we will plan our next course of action,” he said.

Nasi also said the AAPSU would petition Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in this regard.

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