New Delhi, September 19: A problem like the Rohingya Muslims has existed in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh for the past five decades – the fate of Bangladeshi Chakma and Hajong migrants. The Chakmas and Harjongs entered India from Bangladesh in the mid-60s and have not returned. The Supreme Court ordered the government to grant citizenship, but Modi’s dispensation offered resistance.
Who are the Chakmas and Hajong Migrants?
Chakmas and Hajongs came to India from Bangladesh. The Chakmas are Buddhists by religion, while the Harjongs are Hindus. They had lost their homes when the Kaptai dam was built. But, persecution by Islamic powers in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) forced them to migrate to India. Chakmas speak a language from the Bengali-Assamese family. The Hajong speak the Tibeto-Burman language, whose script is Assamese.
Chakmas are the largest ethnic group in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. They are divided into 46 clans. The community is headed by a Chakma Raja while the Hajongs are rice farmers.
When and why did they migrate?
Fearing persecution, they arrived in India in 1964. According to TOI, there were 15,000 Chakmas and 2,000 Hajongs. Currently, more than 1 lakh refugees are staying in India. They had come by way of the Lushai mountains and settled in refugee camps in NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. Now they are moving away from the fields.
In the 70s, the Chakmas did not favor the formation of Bangladesh. They launched an armed struggle for autonomy. A large number of Chakmas moved to Tripura after government forces launched an offensive. The Sheikh Hasina government has tried to make a truce with the Chakmas recognizing them as a Bangla tribe. But they didn’t come back.
The Supreme Court ordered the government to grant voting rights to Chakmas in 2005, and about 1,000 are registered as voters. The court in 2015 ordered the government to grant citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs – but the government resisted the order.
Union minister for state Kiren Rijiju said the government has not decided on their fate. He said that the right of the indigenous people of the state should be protected first. He said that the government did not accept the verdict of the Supreme Court.
“We are trying to tell the court that giving Chakma and Hajong refugees the same rights as Arunachalees is not acceptable to us. So, the people of the state should appreciate the fact that for the first time the Center has not agreed to the court order,” he told TOI.