Itanagar, Nov. 28: The All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU) has slammed the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) for saying that the indigenous population of the state faces a possible threat from non-tribal migrants from other parts of the country and not from the Chakma and Hajong refugees settled in Arunachal Pradesh.
On November 26, the centre had issued a release quoting its director Suhas Chakma, who said, "If the population growth was to pose a threat to indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh, Chakma/Hajong surely do not pose a threat to the local indigenous people of Arunachal. It is the non-Chakma/Hajong general population, which has been increasing rapidly. A total of 47,471 Chakmas and Hajongs cannot pose a threat to 13,83,727 people of the state as per 2011 census."
The issue grabbed headlines in the state recently after a Supreme Court order on September 18 directed the state and Union governments to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees, who had been rehabilitated by the Centre in Arunachal Pradesh from 1964 to 1969 after they fled their homes in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The court has already turned down two review petitions filed separately by the state government and the AAPSU, who will now file curative petitions against the order.
The students' union has opposed the permanent settlement of the Chakma-Hajong population in the state for 40 years. It even staged a dharna against the Supreme Court order last month.
In a release issued today by the students' union "strongly" warned the Asian Centre for Human Rights "not to try and create a rift between the people of Arunachal Pradesh and the non-tribals (sic)".
The ACHR had said the population of Adivasis, Assamese, Nepalese, Muslims, Marwaris, Biharis in the state had increased by 955 per cent in 47 years while the Chakma-Hajong population had increased by 218 per cent according to the 2011 census.
AAPSU has reacted by stating that the centre "doesn't need to tell us who is a threat and who is not".
It said "no matter what the analysis and census say but we know the fact that the population of Chakmas and Hajongs today is more than a lakh".
The students' union also claimed that the exact figures are difficult to ascertain as most Chakmas and Hajongs have moved out of their designated camps and encroached thousands of hectares of forest land.
It also alleged that the Chakmas and Hajongs "have made a direct claim over our land".
Arunachal Pradesh falls under the purview of Article 371 (H) and is protected by Eastern Bengal Frontier Regulation, 1873, whereby non-tribal and non-Arunachal Indian citizens are required to acquire an inner-line permit to visit the state.
While both AAPSU and the state government have said they are not opposed to granting citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs, they are opposing the court order exempting them from acquiring inner-line permits.
AAPSU also alleged that the ACHR director's statements are "another ploy to destroy the peaceful atmosphere of Arunachal Pradesh".
When contacted, Suhas Chakma said, "There is no doubt that growth of the Chakmas or any other population can threaten indigenous people not only in Arunachal Pradesh but everywhere else in the world."