India: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | Hindustan Times

Some of the challenges of India’s diversity and pluralism:

The BJP’s “test case” for granting citizenship to non-Muslims who fled or are fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has run into rough weather in Arunachal Pradesh.

Much before the issue of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh hit turbulence in Assam in 1979, Arunachal Pradesh grappled with Chakma and Hajong refugees displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan in the 1960s.

The Narendra Modi government’s decision to grant the Chakmas and Hajongs citizenship to honour a 2015 Supreme Court directive has stoked anger in the frontier state. Several NGOs have threatened to oppose the move.

Last Saturday, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), the apex students’ body of the state, organised a consultative meeting of NGOs representing indigenous communities who fear being affected by Delhi’s decision.

“The Union home ministry took this decision despite assuring us otherwise. We vehemently oppose the move to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees,” said AAPSU president Hawa Bagang. “We called an all-party meeting, where the presence of all 60 Arunachal MLAs and the state’s three MPs is mandatory.” The meeting is scheduled within a week, he said.

The students’ body, which launched the movement against the refugees in 1990, fears citizenship would reduce indigenous tribes such as Tai-Khampti, Singpho and Mishmi to a minority, besides robbing them of beneficiary schemes.

“Unlike the Tibetan refugees, who stay in designated camps, the Chakmas and Hajongs have spread out and established settlements by encroaching upon forest areas,” Bagang said.

The population of Chakmas and Hajongs was about 5,000 when Delhi had them moved to southern Arunachal Pradesh between 1964 and 1969. Their population is now about 100,000.

The AAPSU said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be using the Chakma and Hajong refugees as a “test case for its Hindutva-centric plan to embrace non-Muslims from India’s neighbourhood, specifically Hindus from Bangladesh”.

Displaced by dam, religious persecution

Members of the Singpho tribe. Singphos and Tangsas are indigenous tribes of southern Arunachal Pradesh in whose area the Chakma and Hajong refugees were settled. (Pronib Das/HT Photo)

The Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajong refugees began trickling into India in the early 1960s via present-day Mizoram — then the Lushai Hills district of Assam — after the Kaptai dam project submerged their land in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

Source: BJP’s Arunachal ‘test case’ for citizenship to non-Muslims runs into rough weather | india-news | Hindustan Times

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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