FAQs – Chakma and Hajong Tribes of Arunachal Pradesh

The word “Chakma” and “Hajong” evokes emotion amongst people of India especially from those belonging to the North-eastern states. Who are these people? Where are they located and what is their origin, history, culture and ethnicity? What is their constitutional status? Are they citizens, foreigners or refugees? How are they different from or similar to the rest of the Chakma and Hajong tribals in India?  How do they compare with refugees like the Tibetans and others? Are they recognized as scheduled tribes and what is the movement for restoration of rights of Chakma and Hajong peoples all about?  

It is questions like these and many other such questions that are often asked both within and outside the state that has prompted CRDO, a civil society NGO working for the restoration of rights and development of these marginalized tribes to come up with this FAQ sheet as an attempt to answer some of the basic questions relating to the Chakma and Hajong peoples of Arunachal Pradesh.

The list of questions selected has been classified under 5 broad knowledge areas – history, demography, political, socio-economic and constitutional. These are by no means exhaustive list of questions or categories, but some beginning must be made to place the facts as-is and make the information readily available. For there are still many misconceptions and misgivings even about what little is supposedly known not to speak of the yet vastly unknown areas of knowledge.

Some of the questions are subjective and answering these may involve interpretation of facts or expression of opinions which may be at variance with the official stand of the government or affected stakeholders. To those we urge you to provide us your views and counter us with facts.It is through a mutual appreciation of views and data-driven approach that a resolution to even the most intractable problems can be achieved in a dialogical process. The Chakma and Hajong issue in the state has been lingering on for many decades now and a solution must be found without any further delay. It will be our endeavour to answer any question not included in this FAQ. If you have any question that is bothering you, please email us at teamcrdo@gmail.com  and we shall try to respond as early as possible. The answers may not be to your liking or satisfaction, but we would try to reply to all questions and keep the dialogical process on with anyone keenly interested on the subject for finding alternative paths towards a better world.

Chakma people are tribal people having their own distinct language, script, culture, customs, traditions, unique dresses, rituals, beliefs, religion and festivals. Like all other tribes of AP, Chakmas belong to Indo-Mongoloid family. Similarly Hajong people are also tribals having their own language, customs and traditions. Both the tribes are residing in 45 villages spread across Changlang, Namsai and Papum Pare districts of the state.

Chakmas are Buddhist, while Hajongs are Hindu by religion.

According to Chakmas’ own folklore, they belonged to Sakyo clan (the very clan the enlightened Gautam Buddha belonged to). Perhaps because of this hypothesis, Buddhism is deep rooted in Chakmas that even the Britishers had failed to influence their faith. Looking at recent history, the Chakmas of AP, unlike other Chakmas in the rest of India, migrated from CHT, erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangaldesh) after submersion of their lands upon construction of Kaptai dam ( constructed at Karnafuli river to generate electricity), CHT and also to escape religious persecution. Hajongs migrated from Mymensingh district, now Bangladesh to escape religious persecution. Government of India finally rehabilitated them during the period from 1964 – 1969.

CHT (Chittagong Hills Tract) is a sizeable hilly landmass in Bangladesh bordering Tripura and Mizoram in the north east and Myanmar in the east, connected to main landmass Bangladesh by a bottle neck piece of land. The total area is 13184 square km. In fact, in terms of area, CHT is bigger than the state of Tripura ( 10492 square km). Before Partition of India, these hill tracts used to be inhabited by 98 percent non muslims comprising of Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, indigenous Assamese, Keot (Kaibarta), Chak, Pankho, Mro, Murang, Bom, Lushei, Khyang, and Khumi. 

These tribal people wanted to remain under India and the same was strongly communicated several times by the tribal leadership led by Mr Sneha Kumar Chakma to then central Indian Leadership and the Boundary Commission (committee appointed to supervise Partition). The central Indian leadership assured that CHT would remain under India. But in the end, innocent, simple and marginalized CHT tribal people were made victims of Partition against their will, CHT was unjustly awarded to Pakistan. Alas!!! It was like throwing the sheep among the wolves. Otherwise, by now, CHT rightfully should have been the eighth sister of North East India.

The district wise details of the 2748 families who were rehabilitated in NEFA (AP) during 1964-69 are as under:

Sl No.DistrictNo. of familiesPopulationTribe
1Tirap (Changlang)2146 11813Chakma
2Lohit (Namsai)  214   1192Chakma
3Subansiri (Papumbari)  238   1133Chakma
4Tirap (Changlang)  150     750Hajong
 Total in AP2748 14888 

A. As per official census 2011, the population of the Chakmas and Hajongs is 49784 which is net addition of 34896 people during the period from 1964 to 2011. This translates to a growth of 234 % in 47 years or 4.98 % per year.

On the other side, for the period from 1961 to 2011, the population of AP increased from 3.37 lakhs to 13.84 lakhs. This translate to 311 % growth for 50 years or 6.22 % per year which is higher than that of AP Chakma Hajong rate of growth.

This proves that in fact, the growth rate of Chakmas and Hajongs is lower than the state overall growth rate and so we can conclude that there is no abnormal growth in Chakma Hajong population.

The Chakma and Hajong refugees took refuge in 1964, were registered as refugees and relief and rehabilitation certificates were issued to them. They are legal migrants and they  were accepted, sponsored and rehabilitated by the Government of India permanently in NEFA (AP) under a definite plan of rehabilitation during the period 1964-69.

More than 1200 km on land.

The main reasons behind rehabilitating the Chakmas in NEFA ( A.P.) by the Central Government of India  are :

a.  Chakmas are tribal, and so are others  in AP, having similar physical features and food habits, therefore they could easily assimilate.

b. Chakmas follow Buddhism, so does their immediate neighbours Khampti and Singpho communities. Common religion brings people much closer.

c. There were abundant vacant and virgin lands in NEFA to accommodate the Chakmas. Further, topographic conditions of AP (NEFA) resembles  CHT.

d.  Post Indo-China war, it was thought unwise to keep vast border lands vacant, thinly populated and abandoned. The Indo-China war happened in 1962,  therefore Chakma/Hajong tribes were settled there in the period 1964 -1969.

e.  Since time immemorial, Chakmas have been loyal and patriotic to India, therefore they would put up strong resistant in case of incursion by China. In other words, Chakmas were settled in NEFA to act as buffer in the event of attack by China. Accordingly, many Chakmas were recruited in SSB ( Sashastra Seema Bal). So, rehabilitation was a strategic decision to safeguard the border areas.

The transit period from CHT to AP was full of hurdles and hardships, fear and anxiety and as well of joy coming back to motherland india. During transit period, many lives were lost due to diseases like malaria, jaundice, fever, etc. The long and audacious journey of over 1200 km from CHT to AP, mostly by foot was marked by stoppages at several places at pre erected refugee camps by the government of India. Some new births were recorded too. Each refugee camp consisted of over 50 to 60 rooms made of bamboo and thatch. Such refugee camps were erected in Tripura, and at  Cachar and Ledo, Assam . Chakma refugees came in batches and were made to stay at Tripura or through Lushai hills (present -day Mizoram) refugee camps initially. From there they were moved in batches to either Cachar or Ledo camps duly escorted by government officials. Refugee allowances in cash and kind was provided by the government of India. In some cases, some families had to spend many years in refugee camps until they were permanently rehabilitated in NEFA , now Arunachal Pradesh.

During rehabilitation in AP, each Chakma family was allotted 5 acres of land along with one time grant of around Rs 4200 to raise their respective hearth and home to start life afresh. The land allotted were dense forest which took days to months in clearing the jungles and converting it to cultivable lands. Upon rehabilitation, their refugee allowances were stopped. Stoppage of refugee allowances marked the end of “refugeehood” and marked the beginning of at par rights with locals as citizens in terms of rights and entitlements.

The “at par rights” enjoyed by the Chakmas/Hajongs are as under:

a)  Free school books and uniform.

b)   Fooding and lodging in ST hotels, Miao

c)   Ration card and rations at subsidized prices

d)  Trade Licences

e)  Gun licenses

f)  Red coats and red caps to village headmen ( Gaon burahs)

g)  Voting rights

h)  Government jobs in defence establishments ( SSB, Assam rifles )

i)  Arms training to general public by SSB personel

i)  Birth certificates

i)  Medical facilities at subsidized rate

j) loan and agricultural subsidies

k)  and many more …

For a decade or so, from 1964 to 1979, for 15 years the Chakmas enjoyed at par rights just like any other local tribe. However, once Arunachal Pradesh became a Union Territory and a subsequently a State, their rights were withdrawn systematically one by one by the state government plunging them into a state of complete helplessness – no citizenship rights, no refugee allowances.

Name of the SchemeWhether
in AP
Chakma/Hajongs areas/people?
Scheme objective
MGNREGAYesNoWage employment
NRLMYesNoSelf – employment
IAY/PMAYYesNoHousing to BPL families
PMGSYYesNoConstruction of roads
NSAPNoNoSocial pension
SAGYNoNoModel village
SPM Rurban MissionNoNoRural growth centres
Gram Swaraj AbhiyanYesNoRural empowerment
Ujala YojanaYesYesLED bulb distribution
PMGDISHAYesYesDigital literacy
RGGVYYesYesRural electrification
DDU-GKYYesNoRural development

As a matter of fact, Chakma/Hajong people of AP are no more refugees.  Each Chakma/Hajong family was refugee only for a brief period, which is during the transit from CHT to NEFA (AP) for around 3 to 5 years before the rehabilitation period 1964 to 1969. Supposing, they were to be treated as refugee, the government of India would have preferred to keep them in refugee camps in Tripura near the present Bangladesh border instead of making them travel a long distance of over 1000 km by foot mostly through thick jungles and forest, braving rains, wild animals, etc to reach NEFA (AP).

Further, government of India stopped refugee allowances after rehabilitation as it recognised Chakma Hajong people as fellow citizens of India thenceforth.

Thirdly, Chakma Hajong people got government jobs in SSB, Assam rifles, etc. Citizens get government jobs, not refugees.

Fourthly, many Chakma people had been been recruited in SSB to guard the borders just like any other citizen of India.

Fifth, each village headman was provided a red coat and cap giving legal status and authority to governance.

Sixth, gun licenses were given to Chakmas which citizens are entitled to. Chakma Hajong people got all the above mentioned rights and facilities because the government of India recognised them as citizens.

Indeed, the Refugeehood for Chakma Hajong people ended the moment they were rehabilitated permanently in Arunachal Pradesh.

The present status of Chakma/Hajong people is of “beleaguered Indian citizens living lives without citizenship rights, opportunities and basic facilities”. Beleaguered because of denial and deprivation, Indian citizens by birth and by the very fact of REHABILITATION completed in 1964-69 but sadly are not given the rights entitled to a citizen of India.

Chakmas participated in the Indian Independence Movement. When India was partitioned, they never wanted nor demanded to part away from mainland India. In fact they only desired to remain under India which they strongly communicated to then Indian leadership and the Cycril Radcliffe Boundary Commission (committee appointed to supervise Partition). After India’s Independence on 15th August 1947, the Chakmas hoisted Indian national Flag with joy at Rangamati, the headquarter of CHT for seven days from 15th to 21st August 1947, but it was forcibly pulled down by the Pakistani Army on the eighth day.

Reason enough to say that Chakmas as a community have been loyal to India since time immemorial.

Being a super micro minority community, their voice for justice was ignored during Partition, their sacrifices during the freedom movement not recognised and their loyalty not rewarded. It’s unfortunate that in their own motherland- India; they are forced to lead miserable lives without full-fledged citizenship rights and opportunities. As a vulnerable tribal community, they are indeed one of the worst victims of Partition.

Rights (including ST rights) to Chakma/Hajong tribes will dilute the rights of the indigenous population.Categorise all tribals of AP into two groups:   Chakmas and Hajongs tribes as ST (plains), rest of the tribes as ST (Hills) as prevalent in neighbouring state Assam. This is a pragmatic solution to prevent dilution of rights if any.

The demography of Arunachal Pradesh will change as population of Chakmas is over 200000.
Chakma/Hajong population is only 49784 as per government census 2011. So, allegation of Chakma and Hajong population being 200000 has no substance. Demography changed 54 years back; it will not change as such as growth rate of Chakma/Hajong tribes is lower than the average growth rate of the overall population of AP.
Political right to Chakmas will make indigenous people minority in their own state.Taking into account, the concentration of Chakma and Hajong people in Diyun- Bordumsa MLA constituency, at best they will be instrumental in electing one MLA. What can a single MLA do in an Assembly house of 60?
Arunachal has no resources to accommodate the Chakmas.No extraordinary resources required to accommodate the Chakmas/Hajongs. Like other tribals, they do farming and in fact their contribution in the field of horticulture and agriculture is noteworthy despite hurdles of all sorts being faced by them. However, if state government feels burdened, the central government should be requested to govern the Chakmas/Hajongs people by creating separate District Council.
Chakma/Hajong people are settled temporarily in APIf at all Chakma/Hajong people are to be settled temporarily, they would been kept at Refugee camps in border state Tripura instead of making them travel over 1200 km to NEFA(AP) incurring huge travel expenditure and with risk to lives. Actually, the rehabilitation of Chakma Hajong people in AP was mainly a government strategic decision to safeguard the vulnerable border areas.

Note: For more clarification please refer to the answer to this question.

There are innumerable issues and problems being faced by the Chakmas & Hajongs in AP at present :

1.  Citizens in theory (by birth) but no full citizenship rights in reality

2. No ST rights unlike many other fellow Chakmas in all other Indian states

3.  No proper school, no college. Most of the Government schools are running with staff shortages.

4. Regular floods washed away vast agricultural lands. Therefore many Chakma families became landless, therefore compelled to work as tenant farmers in Khampti/Singhpo areas.

5. Lack of job opportunities and hunger compelled many families to send their minor children to towns in AP and also in other states to work as domestic help. Many incidents of physical, verbal and sexual abuses were reported. Some cases of missing children who went for domestic help were reported too. Regular migration of youths to cities and towns doing odd jobs is taking place either because they could not continue formal education or being jobless.

6. Due to lack of job opportunities, sitting idle at home, many young children are getting addicted to drugs and alcohols abuse.

7.  No impartial Law and order being practised victimising the innocent Chakma/Hajong people at every given opportunity.

8. Exorbitant tax collected from poor Chakma/Hajong vegetable vendors at border district gates.

9.  Indifferent, rude behaviour and discrimination being faced in most offices and establishments in AP.

10. No proper roads and bridges over Noa dehing river.

The list is not exhaustive.

First, the full-fledged rights due to Chakmas and Hajongs of AP as citizens of India must be restored without delay. In addition a Special Economic Package should be sanctioned by central government to uplift the socio-economic conditions of Chakma/Hajong people.

Indigenousness revolves around three important factors – primitiveness, vulnerability and time.  It’s a fact that once upon a time AP used to be vacant land. As time went by, people migrated there from China and Burma and thereby became native to AP and as well indigenous to AP. On the other hand, pre Partition, CHT was an integral part of India, therefore, Chakmas of AP have been indigenous to India since time immemorial. In fact, their migration to AP resurrected their indigenousness to India. To sum it up, the Chakmas have been native/indigenous to AP since the year 1964 , that is  for the last 54 years, while others have been native/indigenous to AP since time immemorial (probably for the last 200 years)

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