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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

Chakma-Hajong ‘relocation’ row: Himanta rebuffs Rijiju claim of refugees’ migration to Assam

Rijiju, seeking re-election from the Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat, had made the claim about the relocation of the refugees under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which is not applicable in the frontier state

Umanand Jaiswal Nagaon (Assam) Published 24.04.24, 09:46 AM
Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Himanta Biswa Sarma. File picture

Union minister Kiren Rijiju’s claim that talks were on to relocate Chakma-Hajong refugees living in Arunachal Pradesh to neighbouring Assam heated up the poll scene in Assam on Tuesday with the Opposition Congress accusing chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma of being “engaged in a dangerous conspiracy against the state”.

Rijiju, seeking re-election from the Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat, had made the claim about the relocation of the refugees under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which is not applicable in the frontier state.

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“If we talk much before identifying (a suitable place for relocation) it will become an issue so we have worked silently. We have held talks with the Assam government to identify some place in the state,” Rijiju said.

“We have held talks with Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma ji. Union home minister Amit Shah ji has also spoken to (Assam) to somehow find a place (in Assam) to help settle the Chakma-Hajong and help us (Arunachal),” Rijiju claimed.

The minister from Arunachal Pradesh, seen by many in his state as a chief ministerial candidate, had also said the CAA was a “blessing” for the state.

“Had it (CAA) been there between 1964 and 1971, they would not have been here (Chakma-Hajong would not have been settled in the state)," he had said.

Rijiju has said they are staying as “guests” and they have been told with “folded hands” that they will never get PRCs or citizenship in Arunachal Pradesh. The state had simultaneous Assembly and Lok sabha (two seats) polls on April 19.

Assam chief minister said he does not know what Rijiju has said and there has been no discussion with the Centre on the relocation and no Chakma-Hajong people have met me till now on the issue.

“I will discuss with Kiren Rijiju what he has said after the elections...” Sarma said, adding Assam will give permanent citizenship certificates to around 7,000 Assamese people living in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Opposition Congress, Raijor Dal and Assam Jatiya Parishad latched on to Rijiju claim to convey the threat the contentious CAA “poses” to the state, an issue flagged by them during campaigning. The first phase of polls in the state ended on April 19 while the remaining phases are on April 26 and May 7.

There are about 65,000 Chakmas (Buddhists) and Hajongs (Hindus) in Arunachal Pradesh. They fled from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to displacement triggered by a dam and then to escape religious persecution.

They were settled by the Centre in then North East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh) between 1964 and 1969 to “beef up” security following the 1962 Indo-China war. They are mainly concentrated in three of the state’s 26 districts — Changlang, Papumpare and Namsai.

Assam PCC president Bhupen Kumar Borah, attacking the BJP and Sarma, said a vote for them will be akin to “welcoming” the Chakma-Hajongs top Assam when the state itself is beset with unemployment and landless people.

He told the Telegraph that the relocation plan would be part of the election discourse.

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