TNT- The Northeast Today,
I would like to place my comments with respect to the opinion piece published on September 26 titled: OPINION | Politicization of Chakma-Hajong Citizenship issue: a Monumental failure of Govt.
The opinion is a real tale of the tricky situation in which the Chakmas of Arunachal are. The Chakma-Hajong issue has been used by the students’ union (AAPSU, All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union), the State of Arunachal Pradesh) in garnering a sure shot position in politics. The Chakma’s apex student body, APCSU (Arunchal Pradesh Chakma Students’ Union) has very rightly placed the view.
A democratic government is of the people, by the people and for the people. These Chakma and Hajong refugees were settled by the Centre in erstwhile NEFA, 1200 km from their home in erstwhile East Pakistan with the intention of permanently settling them strategically after the war with China. In these times, NEFA which has no resources but only the forest areas, was under the control of Ministry of External Affairs headed by the then Assam Governor. When the government of India is to do something with this place, then whom is it going to consult? The Government of India has consulted the right person, the governor. And for your reference, the Chakmas were enjoying all the rights till 1980s when NEFA turned into a Union Territory and then to a full state in 1987. So, the simple fact is that the Chakmas came to India and were settled by the Government of India even before Arunachal Pradesh was born. And also the fact is that Chakmas have been living there for more than 50 years now.
I do not understand why does AAPSU complain of demography change in case Chakmas are given citizenship in the state of Arunachal. If the majority community in each state — Marathi speakers in Maharashtra or Tamil speakers in Tamil Nadu — insisted that ‘others’ disturb the demography of their state, soon we will not have one India but 29.
If each state had individual citizenship denied to ‘outsiders’, there will be many more partitions of India. Think about it!”
In a stinging article in The Indian Express with the headline, “Out of my mind: A dangerous decision,” Padma Bhushan awardee Lord Megnad Desai (Member of Parliament in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom) has questioned whether “Every state has an inviolable ‘demography’ which has to be left undisturbed?” On the flip-flop of the Central Government, particularly MoS Kiren Rijiju from 13 – 19 September over the granting of citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs as per the 17 September 2015 decision of the Supreme Court, Baron Desai said, “You expect governments to say one thing and do another. That is politics. But you don’t expect a government to change its mind within a week on a fundamental principle.”
On Kiren Rijiju’s reneging on the promise of granting citizenship honouring the Supreme decision on the ground that granting of citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs would dilute the constitutional protection enjoyed by the Arunachalese tribes, Baron Desai aptly remarked, “This, if true, is an astonishing doctrine. After all, there is only citizenship of India, not of a state within India. If Arunachal Pradesh enjoys special status, is it akin to Article 35A under which Jammu and Kashmir citizens have special privileges? There are restrictions on out-of-state Indian citizens owning land in J&K. Is that also the case in Arunachal Pradesh? The Chakma and Hajong are, however, not from out of the state. They have lived there for 53 years. Why then, are they not allowed to enjoy rights that other residents have?”
Agreed, that the land of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to its indigenous people. But Arunachal state with its vast land resources and the Chakmas living at Changlang, Lohit and Papumpare (3 districts) constitute barely 3% of the total population. Then, how can they change the demography of the state? And if we apply a simple logic here, when you have a quarrel between two people, you try to solve it. But when nothing goes well, you approach the courts. And when the court gives the judgement, you are bound to respect and regard the same. In the Chakma case, the Apex court of the country, time and again has given it verdicts in the favour of the Chakmas and in fact, in pursuant to 1996 judgement on the Chakmas’s case, the Supreme Court in 2015, has directed the Centre and the state to give the citizenship to the Chakma-Hajong of Arunachal within 3 months from the date of the verdict (17/09/2015). So, it is the responsibility of the Centre and the state to implement the same at the earliest. I do not find any sense, when someone says that the Chakmas and Hajongs should be given citizenship by Indian government not in Arunachal but outside of it. Last but not the least, Chakmas are the worst victims of the partition of Bharat in India and Pakistan in 1947 and they should be given their dues at the earliest.
Punya C Tannya (Chakma)
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