Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday said said that he was in talks with the Centre for finding a permanent solution on resettling Chakmas and Hajongs refugees, North East Live reported.
On Monday, Khandu said that the communities will be resettled outside the state as the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, or BEFR Act, is in force in Arunachal Pradesh. The Act requires outsiders staying in the state to have an Inner Line Permit, he said.
The Inner Line Permit is a document foreigners or non-local Indian citizens need to enter places designated as “protected areas”. Apart from Arunachal Pradesh, other places where the document is required are Mizoram, most of Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, Manipur and certain pockets of Assam.
Suhas Chakma, the founder of the Chakma Development Foundation of India, however, told Scroll.in that Khandu’s statement was misleading.
“The Chakma and Hajong migrants were settled and rehabilitated in then North East Frontier Agency in 1964 by the only competent authority on the BEFR Act at that point of the time, namely the Union of India,” he said. “The BEFR Act also does not apply to those born inside the state.”
The Chakmas and Hajongs had lived in the Chittagong Hills Tracts of East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh. They fled their homes when their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam in the 1960s.
The Chakmas, who are Buddhist, and the Hajongs, who are Hindus, had faced religious persecution in Bangladesh. After they migrated to India, the government settled a majority of them in Arunachal Pradesh.
In 2015, the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees. But several organisations and civil society groups in Arunachal Pradesh were against it, saying the decision would change the demography of the state and affect the minority status of the tribal population.
On May 20, the National Human Rights Commission directed the Centre and the Arunachal Pradesh government to confer citizenship to eligible members of the two communities within three months in accordance with the Supreme Court verdict.
On Monday, Chakma added that the Constitution does not define “tribal states”, but only gives special recognition to states such as Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana through Article 371.
“Article 371(h), which relates to Arunachal Pradesh, does not even recognise tribal rights but only gives special powers to the governor,” he said.
Chakma told Khandu to ensure that the 2015 Supreme Court verdict is implemented rather than “misleading the people”.