Terming the ongoing imbroglio over the Chakma-Hajong rights issue as a reflection of “monumental failure and mismanagement by the government”, Right Cause, a Bengalurubased organisation working for the marginalised and vulnerable tribal groups, today called for “restoration of all rights to the vulnerable Chakmas and Hajongs without further delay as 90 per cent of them are already citizens by birth”. It is not citizenship rights that needs to be restored, it reasoned. 

“We are concerned with the continuing denial and deprivation of legitimate democratic rights to the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh. The issue of citizenship in Arunachal is a fallout of the antiforeigner agitation in Assam and is politically motivated. Citizenship has already been granted implicitly to them when the government rehabilitated them and allotted five acres of land per family in 1960s,” Mahendra Chakma, president of the Right Cause, told media-persons. Pointing out that the issue had been unnecessarily politicized and has become the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs at the cost of the vulnerable Chakma and Hajong tribal population, he said that the population of 47,471 (as per 2011 Census) had been blown out of proportion to one lakh in order to create fear and xenophobia in the State. 

“The allegation of fresh illegal migrants is out of place due to the stringent vigilance and constant threat of deportation, and the lurking vitiated atmosphere in the State. There is also no incentive for any Chakma or Hajong to come to Arunachal from other States as the Chakmas of other States are enjoying all fundamental rights as citizens, included indigenous/ST status,” he added. Attributing the present problem to misidentification of Tibetan refugees, who had not yet accepted Indian citizenship as they wish to return once Tibet was freed, he said the Chakma and Hajong refugees had come with the intent of making India their permanent home as they were anyway people of Indian origin. Chakma said that blanket labelling of refugees under one bracket and the failure to recognize the distinction led to the present crisis. “The Chakma refugees, who came in 1986 and were camped in Indo-Bangladesh borders of Tripura and repatriated in 1997, are different and not to be confused with the Chakma and Hajong refugees who were permanently rehabilitated in NEFA,” he added. 

The Right Cause urged immediate restoration of all rights, like public employment banned in 1980, issue of ration cards and reinstatement of Gaonburha/Panchayati Raj Institutions which were cancelled in 1994. Chakma rued that the patriotism of the Chakmas and their loyalty to India had been exploited by the government when it settled them in NEFA to safeguard the China border, “but 50 years after rehabilitation we continue to face this ordeal, suspended between the mirage of citizenship and threat of deportation”. 

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