Arunachal Pradesh recently witnessed protests and agitations after Centre decided to grant citizenship to around 64,000 Chakma and Hajong refugees who are settled in the state. On Tuesday, All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) observed a dawn-to-dusk shutdown to protest against Centre’s move.

Several instances of violence were reported in the state and few public buses as well as private vehicles were attacked. There were few incidents of stone-pelting against the police personnel, reports NDTV.

The Centre’s move comes after Supreme Court in 2015 directed it to grant citizenship to the Chakma-Hajong refugees. But the protesters which also include several civil society activists, say that granting citizenship to the refugees will disturb the demography of the state and would affect the indigenous people.

While the Rohingya refugee crisis continues to garner the global attention, here is all you need to know about India’s own refugee crisis:

Who are Chakmas and Hajongs?

Chakmas (Buddhists) and Hajongs (Hindus) originally hail from Chittagong Hill Tracts in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). They left their homeland when it was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s. They entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). Both the communities reportedly faced religious persecution after which they were moved to the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now Arunachal Pradesh, reports PTI.

How many Chakma-Hajong refugees are there in India?

According to officials, the number of these refugees has increased from 2,748 families comprising 14,888 people to 64,000 people now. According to an unofficial estimate, the population has touched 1,00,000.

But what is their current status?

They don’t have citizenship and land rights but are provided basic amenities by the Arunachal Pradesh government. According to the Supreme Court, all those born in India could invoke Section 5(i)(a) and apply for citizenship. So far, about 5,000 people have applied, but haven’t got citizenship although 3,200 Chakmas are there on the state’s electoral rolls, reports Indian Express.

Why a controversy all of a sudden?

Few days ago, Centre decided to grant ‘limited citizenship’ to the Chakmas and Hajongs. It means they will neither get land rights nor be recognised as a Scheduled Tribe in Arunachal Pradesh. The Centre’s move is a part of BJP’s plan to grant citizenship to non-Muslim minorities fleeing persecution in neighbouring countries which was made in the Citizenship Amendment) Bill of 2016, reports Hindustan Times.

Why are people against the move?

The Arunachal Pradesh government had approached the apex court in the past to review its order but in vain. Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Monday wrote to home minister Rajnath Singh voicing the concerns of the people of Arunachal Pradesh. He said that granting citizenship to refugees would mean infringement of the Constitutional protection bestowed on the tribals of the state. 

“I reiterate that the people of my State are not ready to accept any infringement on the Constitutional protection bestowed on the tribals of Arunachal Pradesh and want to ensure that the ethnic composition and the special rights enjoyed by the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are safeguarded at all cost,” reads the letter.

What next?

Centre  will soon approach the Supreme Court to seek a “modification” of its order to grant citizenship to Chakma-Hajong refugees living in Arunachal Pradesh as it is not possible to implement it due to ground difficulties.

Union home minister for state, Kiren Rijiju, who also hails from Arunachal Pradesh, said that the settling refugees is violation of Inner Line Permit

“We will tell the Supreme Court that the order is not implementable,” he said, reports PTI.

(Feature image source: Twitter| Financial Express)