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Offer period 11th - 18th August, 2018

Chakma-Hajong Citizenship issue
Sep 18, 2017

[GS Paper II: (Functions & responsibilities of the Union and the States; Salient features of Representation of People’s Act)]

Why in news?

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has recently decided to grant citizenship to all Chakma and Hajong refugees living in the Northeastern part of India.
  • The move came following an order of the Supreme Court, which in 2015 had directed the Central government to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees, mostly staying in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In 2005, Election commission had also issued guidelines to include Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal’s electoral rolls. 


  • The Chakmas (also referred as the Changma or Daingnet people) and the Hajongs are ethnic group scattered in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, West Bengal and in Bangladesh and western Myanmar.
  • The Chakmas are Buddhists while the Hajongs are Hindus.
  • Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of Chittagong Hill Tracts in erstwhile Eastern Pakistan, bordering India and Myanmar in present-day Bangladesh.
  • These people had to leave their homeland when their land was submerged as a result of Kaptai dam project near Chittagong, Bangladesh, in the 1960s.
  • The Chakmas and Hajongs also faced religious persecution and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram).


  • All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU) launched a mass movement against granting citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs in the 1980s, which continues till today.
  • Indigenous tribal communities of northeast states fear that they would be reduced to a minority and deprived of opportunities if the refugees are given equal rights. They say the demography of the state will change as a result. 
  • The central government is trying to find a workable solution by proposing that the refugees will not be given rights enjoyed by scheduled tribes including the land ownership in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • However, they may be given Inner Line Permits required for non-locals in Arunachal Pradesh to travel and work.

Inner Line Permit 

  • Inner Line Permit is an official travel document issued by the government of India to allow inward travel of an Indian citizen into a protected/restricted area for a limited period. 
  • It is obligatory for Indian citizens from outside of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram to obtain permit for entering into these protected States. It is issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. 
  • Recently, Arunachal Pradesh has launched the e-Inner Line Permit (eILP) programme as a digital step for hassle-free entry of domestic visitors to the frontier state. 

Way Forward

  • Immigration is a polarising issue in the Northeast. Hence, it is necessary that the Centre and the Arunachal government remove the fears of the indigenous population on the citizenship issue. 
  • It is also important that the refugee question is not seen through the prism of religion. The movement of people across borders in the Subcontinent is a legacy of Partition.
  • India’s policy of admitting refugees from neighbouring nations prone to political, social and economic volatility, irrespective of their religious affiliation underscores its secular and humane credentials. 


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