Arunachal Pradesh mulls special census for Chakma and Hajong community: Who are they and why a survey has them worried

The Arunachal Pradesh government's decision to conduct a special census of the Chakmas and Hajongs from 11 December has caused a row in ...

The Arunachal Pradesh government's decision to conduct a special census of the Chakmas and Hajongs from 11 December has caused a row in the state with the Chakma Development Foundation of India seeking the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat.

So, who exactly are the Chakmas and Hajongs and why has this census caused furore amongst them?

Who are the Chakmas and Hajongs?

The Chakmas and Hajongs are originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

They were first displaced from their original homes because their land got submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960. Later, they became victims of religious persecution and fled to India.

The Chakmas are Buddhists, whereas the Hajongs are Hindus.

Initially, this group of people, most being Chakmas, entered the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (today’s Mizoram). However, fearing there would be trouble between the Mizos and the Chakhmas, the Assam government sent them to the Tirap division of North East Frontier Agency (NEFA, present-day Arunachal Pradesh).

As per records, 14,888 persons were settled into this region and they began to call Arunachal their home.

Originally, all of the Chakmas and Hajongs in India were treated as refugees and were not granted any land rights. However, after much debate and discussion, the Supreme Court in 2015 directed the Centre to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajongs who had migrated from Bangladesh in 1964-69.

However, this decision has not gone down well with the Arunachal government opposing this, saying that it could not permit ‘outsiders’ to settle on its territory because that would adversely affect its demography, and stretch its limited resources.

All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU) has been demanding the the expulsion of the Chakma and Hajongs for decades.

Explaining why they wanted the Chakmas and Hajongs out, AAPSU general secretary, Tabom Dai, was quoted as saying, "People of Arunachal Pradesh will never allow the Chakmas and Hajongs to live in the state. They are illegal migrants and were settled in the state without the consent of the local people. When they were brought between 1964 and 1969, their population stood at 14,000. But now officially their population has increased to over 65,000. But practically, it will be more than a lakh. Local communities like the Singphos, Khamti and Thangsa, whose population will be between 7,000 to 30,000 have already been outnumbered by the Chakmas and Hajongs. As a result, the local communities are facing an identity crisis."

The Asian Centre for Human Rights, quoting the 2011 census, has reported the total population of Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh as 47,471 persons.

What’s this a survey?

Recently, the Arunachal Pradesh government issued a circular stating that a special census would be conducted in all the Chakma/Hajong inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh and a report would be submitted before 31 December.

The census would collect details on the name of the person, sex, date of birth, education qualification, Aadhaar and mobile number, bank details, among others.

Why are the Chakmas and Hajongs against it?

The Chakma Development Foundation of India (CDFI) in their petition to Prime Minister Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said that the survey is an attempt by the state to racially profile 65,000 Chakmas and Hajongs.

The foundation alleged that the exercise was being carried out with an aim to drive them out of the state.

“This exclusive census is an act of racial profiling as only the Chakmas and Hajongs are being singled out. Arunachal shares its borders with China and Myanmar from where illegal migration has been taking place since independence,” Suhas Chakma of the CDFI claimed.

Also claiming that the settlements of the illegal migrants are visible in most parts of the state’s Namsai, Lohit and Papumpare districts, he alleged the government was targeting only the Chakmas and the Hajongs in clear violations of the Constitution of India and the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination ratified by India.

The CDFI said the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh are the worst victims of Partition of India and, as migrants from undivided India, the government of India has specific responsibility towards them.

The group also accused the state government of preventing social integration of the Chakmas and Hajongs.

With inputs from agencies

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India World News: Arunachal Pradesh mulls special census for Chakma and Hajong community: Who are they and why a survey has them worried
Arunachal Pradesh mulls special census for Chakma and Hajong community: Who are they and why a survey has them worried
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