Perils of Chakmas and Hajongs | 28 Apr 2020

Why in News

The Rights and Risks Analysis Group has sought Indian Prime Minister’s intervention in ensuring food for the Chakma and Hajong communities in Arunachal Pradesh.

Key Points

  • Chakmas and Hajongs have allegedly not been included in the Covid-19 Economic Relief Package announced by the central government in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Under the Relief Package, as part of the PM Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojana: Each person who is covered under the National Food Security Act gets an additional five kg wheat or rice for free, in addition to the 5 kg of subsidised foodgrain already provided through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
    • One kg of pulse per household is also provided for free, according to regional preferences.
  • Their ration cards were illegally and arbitrarily seized by the state government in October, 1991. As a result, they are forced to buy food items at normal or hiked prices while other vulnerable sections are paying ₹5 per kg as per the economic package.
  • Since the members of the communities have become legal citizens of India, denial of food violates the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Chakmas and Hajongs

  • These are ethnic people who lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, most of which are located in Bangladesh.
    • Chakmas are predominantly Buddhists, while Hajongs are Hindus.
    • They are found in northeast India, West Bengal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
  • They fled erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1964-65 and came to India and settled in Arunachal Pradesh. Reasons:
    • Chakmas lost their land to the development of the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River, Bangladesh.
    • Hajongs faced religious persecution as they were non-Muslims and did not speak Bengali.
  • In 2015, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajongs who had migrated from Bangladesh in 1964-69.
    • The order was passed while hearing a plea by the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas.
    • They did not directly come into the ambit of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) because Arunachal Pradesh is among the states exempted from the CAA since it has an inner line permit to regulate entry of outsiders.
  • Currently, Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens by birth as per Section 3(1) of the Citizenship Act and the eligible portion of their population exercise the right to vote as citizens of India (they were given voting rights in 2004).
    • However, 4,637 pleas of the survivors of migration during 1964-1969 are still pending with the Centre even as some of the applicants have died.

Source: TH