Chakmas, Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh Face 'Uncertain Future' as Government Plans Relocation

Reported by

East Street Journal Asia

Legal Data by

Bhavesh Seth, Mukta Joshi

Edited by

Moushumi Sharma

Updated by

Published on

February 23, 2022

February 23, 2022

Updated on

February 23, 2022

Location of Conflict

Bordumsa-Diyun areas in Changlang district and Kokila area in Papum Pare district

Changlang, Namsai and Papum Pare districts

Changlang

Reason or Cause of Conflict

Communal/Ethnic Conflict

(

)

People Affected by Conflict

65875

Households Affected by Conflict

Land Area Affected (in Hectares)

ha

Starting Year

1964

State

Arunachal Pradesh

Sector

Land Use

The Chakma and Hajong communities have expressed disappointment over the government’s bid to relocate them from Arunachal Pradesh, where the two communities have been settled for almost six decades.

On August 15, 2021, Chief Minister Pema Khandu announced in his speech that “all illegal immigrant Chakmas will be moved and settled out of Arunachal Pradesh with honour”.

Following this, the All Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Gaonburah Association and the Chakma Rights and Development Organisation (CRDO), in separate statements, stated that they will oppose any move to shift them outside the state and claimed that 90 per cent of the two communities are Indian citizens “by birth”.

Chakmas and Hajongs, who are Buddhists and Hindus, respectively, reportedly migrated to India between 1964 and 1966 from Chittagong Hills Tract of then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). While the Chakmas were displaced by the Kaptai hyropower project, the Hajongs wanted to escape religious persecution.

CRDO President Mahendra Chakma argues that the two communities did not come to India on their own. “They were brought by the Government of India under a Centrally sponsored ‘definite plan of rehabilitation’”.

The two communities are mainly settled in Changlang, Namsai and Papum Pare districts. The withdrawal of basic amenities like employment opportunities, electoral rights, termination of trade licence and confiscation of ration cards have made it difficult for the settlers to survive.

In August 2021, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) and the state unit of the Nationalist People Party (NPP) stated explicitly to the media that the ‘people of the state would never accept the Chakma and Hajong refugees’. Expressing concern over the growing population of the refugees, NPP President Mutchu Mithi told reporters: “Their population at present is between one and 1.5 lakh, which is much higher than some of the indigenous tribes of the state, and this is a serious issue. Granting them citizenship will create a drastic demographic as well as political change in Arunachal Pradesh.”

Following these developments, the CRDO said that the Chakmas now face an ‘uncertain and fragile future’ and that the government’s decision has shaken their ‘fundamental belief’ in the democratic legal system.  

In 2015, the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh had filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) alleging persecution of Chakmas and Hajongs settled in the state. The committee stated in its petition that the two groups are tormented by poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and political identity crisis. The NHRC asked the state government and the home ministry to submit a report on the matter. In response, the state government assured that there was no threat to the lives and properties of the two communities in question and that an adequate police force was deployed to protect them. The home ministry, on its part, asked the state government to ensure normalcy in law and order as well as to supply essential commodities and medical facilities to the Chakma and Hajong refugees.

In September 2017, protests in the state against proposed citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs turned violent. During a statewide _bandh _called by the AAPSU, protesters damaged several vehicles, torching a state transport bus and a private vehicle.

Meanwhile, the All Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Gaonburha Association issued a press release stating, “More than 90 per cent of these people were born here and are citizens by birth. They will live and die here with dignity and honour and cannot suffer through another mass migration to start life afresh outside Arunachal Pradesh.”

Kanki Darang, joint secretary to the chief minister, told LCW in November 2021 that the government has constituted a high-powered committee to look into the issue and is expected to submit a report. 

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Complaint against procedural violations

Demand to retain/protect access to common land/resources

Demand for legal recognition of land rights

Other Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

The indigenous tribes and local political parties have demanded the relocation of the Chakmas and Hajongs, while the latter have demanded the government to recognise their rights to continue to stay in the state.

Region Classification

Rural

Type of Land

Common and Private

Type of Common Land

Forest

Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Page Number In Investment Document:

Has the Conflict Ended?

No

When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Legislations/Policies Involved

Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873
Regulation 7 [Prohibition on acquisition of land or any interest thereon by foreigners within certain protected areas]
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Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community?

What was the Decision of the Concerned Government Department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Lack of legal protection over land rights

Violation of standard international laws

Legal Status:

In Court

Status of Case In Court

Pending

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Yes

Name of the adjudicatory body

National Human Rights Commission

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Supreme Court of India, Gauhati High Court

Case Number

WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.510 OF 2007, Equivalent citations: 1996 AIR 1234, 1996 SCC (1) 742

Main Reasoning/Decision of court

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Financial harassment

Other harassment

Displacement

Whether criminal law was used against protestors:

Reported Details of the Violation:

The Chakmas and Hajongs were allegedly banned from employment in the state in 1980; their ration cards were cancelled in 1991 and their appointment to the post of village head was cancelled in 1994.

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Changlang, Namsai and Papum Pare Districts

Nature of Protest

Protests/marches

Property damage/arson

Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Ministry of Home Affairs, Chief Minister's Secretariat

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Kangki Darang, joint secretary to the Arunachal Pradesh chief minister, told LCW that the government has constituted a high-powered committee to look into the issue and is expected to submit a report.

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Communities/Local Organisations in the Conflict:

All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union, Chakma Development Foundation of India, All Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Gaonburha Association, All Mishmi Students’ Union

Resources Related to Conflict

  • News Articles Related to the Conflict:
  • Documents Related to the Conflict:
  • Links Related to the Conflict:

Image Credit:  

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Documented By

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Reviewed By

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Updated By

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Edited By

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