The Chakmas and Hajongs have been caught in the misguided politics of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, where many political parties and student organizations have made the issue into a poll plank. The state government has been very hostile till now. However, we are hopeful that this attitude will change once they are able to separate the truth from the propaganda. CRDO intends to bring out this truth to the innocent public of Arunachal Pradesh.
Chakma delegation led by President, CRDO met Honourable Deputy Chief Minister
of Arunachal Pradesh Shri Chowna Mein ji on 27th January 2020 at the latter’s
residence cum office to discuss about the long pending issues and problems being
faced by Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh and to find an amicable
It has been the vision and endeavor of CRDO leadership that the issue can be brought to closure and a sustainable permanent resolution can be achieved only through mutual discussions with the local leaders with an open mind and heart based on truth, non-violence and peaceful co-existence.
Several misconceptions and myths circulating around regarding the Chakma tribals were discussed threadbare and the Deputy CM after a long 40-minute open discussion has assured the delegation to take up the matter with the highest level for resolution.
The issue of Kathan Area dispute
came up for discussion and it has been clarified that the issue is a chronic
one and it is pending resolution since 1980s and the matter is now with the
Deputy commissioner of Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh.
Citing the example of Tripura and
Assam where the indigenous population has been swamped by outsider population,
the Deputy CM said that such fears are genuine, and the problem of fresh Chakma
influx must be addressed. To this, the
CRDO leadership maintained that there’s no influx, least of all from Bangladesh
because Arunachal Pradesh does not share any contiguous boundary with
Bangladesh. Influx can happen mainly through a porous border – to say that
someone will come 1200 kms from CHT to Arunachal Pradesh is a mis-propaganda
fueled by some vested political interests especially when there are so many
inner line gates and no incentive to come to AP as Chakmas are leading a life
Moreover, as per the white paper
and census conducted by Government – which is the most reliable data source,
the population of Chakmas and Hajongs increased from 14,888 during 1964-69 to
49,784 in 2011 yielding a compounded annualized growth rate of 2.6% which is
LOWER than the state growth rate of 2.87%.
The population of state increased from 3.37 lakhs in 1961 to 13.84 lakhs
in 2011, roughly increasing by 4x.
As per the statement of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Pema Khandu on the floor of state Assembly on 09th Jan 2020, the total population of Chakma and Hajong people as per a special survey conducted by the Deputy Commissioners of Changlang, Namsai and Papum Pare districts in 2015-16 stands at 65,875 only.
Another fallacy that got
clarified was the comparison with Tibetan refugees who are a separate category
altogether because they enjoy more rights and facilities than even Chakmas /citizens
of India though they are considered as refugees / ‘honored guests’ under the
Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy. Not only do they share a contiguous border with
AP but the Tibetans also have the blessing and support of His Holiness, the
Dalai Lama – who is widely respected as a world spiritual leader whereas the
Chakmas have no one to look up to and are like abandoned children.
The CRDO team expressed sincere
gratitude to late Shri C.K Gohain, Shri Pisila Singpho and all local leaders
and chiefs for understanding the pain and suffering and accepting/accommodating
the Chakma refugees in the then NEFA during 1964-69. Without their support and
the initiative of the Govt, the rehabilitation of the Chakmas and Hajongs would
not have become a reality.
Recently a video was circulated widely on social media from the BISBO YouTube channel (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukcr7lFInCo) where they did a case study on the Chakma-Hajong people vis-a-vis CAA and their broad history especially on the migration and resettlement of 2748 families in present-day Arunachal Pradesh.
CRDO carried out an in-depth analysis of the video and found it wanting on many counts. What was alarming was that the common mainland Indian knew so little about the Chakma and Hajong issue of Arunachal Pradesh and their arguements are often based on premises built on the propaganda of the hostile State Government, AAPSU and other groups with vested interests.
It appears that BISBO had sourced most of the content from the “White paper on Chakma and Hajong Refugee issue by the Govt of Arunachal Pradesh”. Unfortunately, this white paper was published by the state Government as a reaction to the Supreme Court verdict of NHRC vs State of AP dated 09 Jan 1996 which had indicted the state government of its complicity and failure to protect the rights and liberty of the Chakmas and Hajongs living in AP. When the state government itself is a party and is hand in gloves with AAPSU in perpetrating violence and oppression on the hapless Chakmas one can imagine the immanent bias reflected in the White Paper. Readers are requested to please read the judgment for details.
It is a fact that the Chakmas and Hajongs did not go to NEFA on their own. They were taken there by the government of India traversing a distance of 1200 kilometers from CHT. Hence, they were accepted and rehabilitated by the Government of India in the then North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which later became Arunachal Pradesh under a centrally sponsored ‘definite plan of rehabilitation’, following a series of discussions between the representatives of the Central government, state administration and local tribal leaders.
The statement that the Chakmas had converted to Buddhism from Islam is incorrect. At no point in history were the Chakmas muslims. It was a practice to adopt the titles of ruling dynasties as a gesture of accepting the token suzerainty of the Mughal Emperor after the Mughal-Chakma wars (Subir Bhaumik – Insurgent Crossfire; Lancer Publishers, New Delhi). Before embracing Theravada Buddhism during the time of Kalindi Rani, the Chakmas practiced another form of Buddhism called Lori (another form of Mahayana Buddhism). The image of the great Chakma Queen Kalindi Rani as a Muslim lady as depicted in the video is factually incorrect bordering on being offensive to many.
Below are presented some more (by no means exhaustive) inaccuracies in the aforementioned video:
* NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh, over objections from their indigenous people were asked to take in 2598 families.
# The Chakmas and Hajongs were permanently settled in five different settlement areas in 3 divisions of NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) by the Government of India under a Centrally sponsored “definite plan of rehabilitation” in 1964-69 with the consent of the local tribal chiefs, then NEFA administration and the Governor of Assam. NEFA was then administratively managed under the Ministry of External Affairs through the Governor of Assam. Citizenship was already given at the time of rehabilitation. It was only later that these rights were de-recognized one after another as part of denial and deprivation policy of the state.
* Population swelled from 50 odd families in 1966 to 788 families, soon they demanded citizenship of India. The 2600 Chakma families had taken refuge in Arunachal, had grown in to 65000 units by 1991.
# As per available data with the Govt. of India and Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh 2,598 families comprising 14,138 persons were settled in NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh). As per the 2011 census, the total Chakma and Hajong population combined is 49,784 which is merely 3.6% of the total state population. The growth rate of the Chakma-Hajong population is significantly LOWER than the overall state population. The compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for the Chakma-Hajong population stands at 2.60% versus 2.87% for the overall state population. For the 2001-11 decade, the decadal growth rate for Chakma-Hajong population stands at 17.5% versus 26% for the overall state population. As per the statement made by Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Pema Khandu on the floor of the State Legislative Assembly on 8th January 2020, the total Chakma-Hajong population as per survey done by DCs in 2015-16 stands at 65,875. (The Arunachal Times, dated 08 Jan 2020)
The population of 50 odd families (57 to be precise) is of one village called Joypur only and you seem to have unfortunately mixed up that village population with the total Chakma population.
* Government of Arunachal asked to 50 families to return to allotted areas and vacate additional areas with reference to Arunachal Pradesh vs Khudiram Chakma, 1993, SCR(3) 401 court case. They are indulging in illegal and criminal activities and constantly troubling the locals.
# It is a case of gross misrepresentation and generalization. In fact, a lot has been written about the issue of land encroachment by Khudiram Chakma who supposedly ‘strayed’ outside the settlement area. It has received wide publicity in the media and the case has been cited by many. But it is sad that no in-depth study has ever been done to understand the case as an example of good relationship and cultural assimilation that was developing between the fellow Buddhist tribes like the Chakma and Singpho tribes.
Khudiram Chakma never went to the court on the citizenship question. He went to the court for justice – to quash an ‘arbitrary’ order issued by the Circle Officer to vacate the land donated to him and 56 other families by one local Singpho Raja (Chief) Shri Ningrunong Singpho. The deed of donation that became the subject matter in Apex Courts was about one square mile of personal land donated by the Singpho Raja to Shri Khudiram Chakma. It did not happen by force nor was the decision taken overnight. It was preceded by years of mutual friendship, affection and respect for each other and is an expression of that genuine love and friendship. It was a win-win situation for both the donor Raja and Shri Khudiram Chakma because it acted as a buffer against other encroachers eying for uncultivated vacant land lying in the area. Clearing the forest and converting it into cultivable land meant providing protection against wild elephants making their presence felt and grazing and destroying paddy crops in the human habitat. How someone sitting as a Judge in Delhi would be persuaded to appreciate such rural local nuances. The fact that he lost the case eventually in the Supreme Court is another matter, but no one thought that the case will be used to generalise the verdict of the case and pitted against all the Chakma and Hajong people of Arunachal Pradesh. Every Chakma was branded as a foreigner although the facts and circumstances of the 56 families are not the same and are different from those of the other families rehabilitated in Arunachal Pradesh. But for the impugned notice issued by the Circle Officer of Diyun which created this as an issue, Khudiram Chakma would not have gone to the court. That is what triggered the litigation process in courts and the vulnerable Chakma tribals failed to win the case against the mighty and powerful state government.
* Relation between locals and refugees deteriorated so much in 1994, AAPSU issued quit Arunachal Pradesh.
# The relation between the Chakmas and other local tribes deteriorated only for a brief time at the behest of AAPSU who, in their zeal to copy the Assam agitation of AASU of the late 70s on their way to power, wanted their version of the foreigners (the other) and found soft targets in the Chakmas and Hajongs who were then just settling down after their rehabilitation. Backed by the state machinery AAPSU have been subjecting the poor Chakma and Hajong people to systematic denial, deprivation and derecognition of the Chakma and Hajong people of their fundamental rights. Hence the apex court had indicted both AAPSU and the state government in the 1996 judgement.
There are mainly 2 issues in Arunachal Pradesh – the China issue and the Chakma-Hajong issue. It’s in the interest of AAPSU to keep this issue alive. Riding on the wave of confusion, fear and xenophobia created in the minds of innocent Arunachalee public, many AAPSU leaders have become successful political leaders in the state.
AAPSU were dismissed once as a body comprising (of) ‘pampered’ students (Gupta 1982) and another time as a ‘private entity’ (Limpert 1998). However, being master propagandists, backed by the corridors of power in Arunachal Pradesh, in the mainstream, it is only the AAPSU version of what the Chakma-Hajong issue is that is available and accessible to the people.
While the attempt to empathize with our cause is appreciable, but it is a cause for concerned that it ended up doing quite the opposite as such half-truths and inaccuracies have only distorted the reality of our settlement and existence.
It may be mentioned here that 90% of Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens of India by birth and the original migrants were also accorded de facto citizenship rights at the time of their rehabilitation. It is only later after 1980 that the rights of Chakmas and Hajongs were de-recognized one after another in the name of ‘citizenship’.
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One of the many reasons that is often cited against the Chakmas is the assumption that Chakma and Hajong population are growing exponentially vis-à-vis the indigenous population and that they will change the demographic profile of the state. The CRDO team did a thorough research to find out what is the truth based on government published reports, white papers, Census records.
Here is what we found: As per official white paper published by the state government, a total of 2748 Chakma and Hajong families were finally rehabilitated in erstwhile NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh by the Government of India under a definite plan of rehabilitation from the period 1964 to 1969 in Tirap (now, Changlang), Lohit (Namsai) and Subansiri (Papumpare) districts. Unlike the Tibetans who continue to remain as “honored guests” and get Refugee benefits under the Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy (TRP) 2014, the Chakmas and Hajongs are living on their own in 46 proper villages across these 3 districts after their rehabilitation. They do not get any refugee benefits.
Based on the census survey data and the Chakma and Hajong population figures as recorded in the state government’s published white paper, for the period from 1964 to 2011, the population has grown from 14,888 to 49,784 which is a net addition of 34,896 people during the said period. This translates to a growth of 234% in 47 years or 4.98% per year. Similarly, the first census done for NEFA was in 1961 and the population figures are available. For the 50-year period from 1961 to 2011 for Arunachal Pradesh, the population increased from 3.37 lakh to 13.84 lakh respectively. This translates to 311% growth for 50 years or 6.22% per year which is higher than that of Arunachal Chakma-Hajong rate of growth.
Population growth is non-linear and therefore using the same (1961-2011) data, the Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for overall state population is 2.87% while for Chakma Hajong population from 1964 to 2011 during the 47-year period, it is 2.60% which is lower than the overall state population growth rate.
Now, in terms of the decadal growth rate for the most recent decade 2001 to 2011, for the overall state of Arunachal Pradesh, it is 26% while increase for Chakma and Hajong population, during the same decade stands at 17% which is significantly lower.
Finally, the Chakma Hajong population as a percentage of the overall Arunachal Pradesh population has declined from 4.3% in 1971 to 3.6% in 2011 which irrefutably allays the alleged fear of Chakmas-Hajong population explosion.
In order to accelerate the process of data correction and sensitize people of the importance of accurate and correct records, a plan has been put in place where 5 volunteers nominated from each village will undergo training and in turn conduct such programs on data discrepancy and correction. This will help and enable many poor and illiterate families to rectify their document errors and apply for enrollment in voter list.
An executive meeting was held at Bijoypur to further spread awareness and implementation of the plan.
Participation in literary and cultural program:
A 4-member team comprising 2 GBs and CRDO representatives has recently visited Papumpare to finalise preparations for participation at Bodo Sahitya Sabha cultural program to be held early next year.
A detailed plan with a cultural troupe has been put in place to represent the Chakma community at this prestigious literary and cultural event. This is in sync with CRDO’s objective of maintaining social harmony, friendly and cordial relationship with all our neighbors for peaceful co-existence.
Citizenship Bill, 2016
The Amendment of the Citizenship Bill, 2016 is pending before the Parliament and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has been established to take the inputs of public and NGOs. While the outcome of the Bill will have little or no significance to Chakma and Hajong people of AP, it will have far reaching effect in the NE region and may have a bearing on the court cases.
CRDO as a democratic organization believes in the power of many to come together and galvanize resources using “The Power of ONE” to include even the poorest of the poor in the pyramid. Imagine 1 rupee per head per month, a fund amount of at least 50,000 rupees per month will be generated which is good enough to carry out all the initiatives taken. You can remit your contributions at the details mentioned below:
Chakma Rights And Development Organisation Account No.: 0721050016108 United Bank of India Branch: Namsai, Arunachal Pradesh IFSC: UTBI0NSI397
With the birth of CRDO, an important truth about the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh has dawned as if a beautiful landscape has all of a sudden come into view after the mist and fog has lifted from the horizon. The all important truth is that Chakmas and Hajongs are already citizens – 90% of them by birth and 10% by the fact that they were put up in refugee camps initially but finally rehabilated as Indian nationals (hence citizenship was implicitly granted). It is another matter though that the issue has been politicized, de-recognizing some of the citizenship rights already given through disenfranchisement, striping off rights one after on the ground of nationality. Unlikemany other states, the onus has been put on the Chakmas to prove they are not foreigners.
The phrase “grant of citizenship rights” habitually used with respect to the purported status of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh is misleading. It is not so much about grant of citizenship but about restoration of rights as citizens that they once enjoyed and being allowed to exercise these rights just like anybody else with ST status in Arunachal Pradesh.
Having undertaken numerous path-breaking initiatives keeping in mind its core values of TRUTH, TRUST and TRANSPARENCY, objectives and mandate, CRDO achieved success in varying degrees in the year gone by. In the process, CRDO faced daunting challenges, many of which were successfully dealt with while many are still work-in-progress.
General Body Meeting
A General Body meeting of CRDO was organized in the month of December 2018 at the Circuit House, Diyun, Arunachal Pradesh whereby bye-law of CRDO was formally adopted and participation of the Chakma community in the Bodo Sahitya Sabha in January 2019 was finalized. In addition, it was also decided CRDO would help in every way possible to organize Bizu Mela 2019.
The invitation to participate in the Bodo Sahitya Sabha came through the Chakmas of Papumpare. It was a great opportunity for the Chakma Community to further strengthen the bond of friendship with one of the major tribal communities of Assam.
By way of making participation of the Chakma community at the Bodo Sahitya Sabha broad-based and truly representative of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh, CRDO led by its President Mahendra Chakma travelled through the length and breadth of the Chakma inhabited villages starting from Deban to Ratnapur/Gulokpur/Bijoypur to Diyun and Chowngkam including Papumpare and delivered the message of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha invitation, its significance, motivated and inspired the public who in turn expressed support and appreciation with their feet.
Subsequently, a group comprising of one cultural troupe, Gaon Burahs, Mahila Samiti representatives, well-wishers and CRDO delegates successfully and with much fulfillment represented the whole Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh at the prestigious Bodo Sahitya Sabha showcasing Chakma culture, tradition, music, model house to lakhs of visitors and revelers from across the world.
In the meantime, CRDO President Mahendra Chakma was felicitated and invited to share the dais with prominent dignitaries including Nyshi Elite Society, Government of Assam senior officials, various Bodo leaders, academicians and other Bodo stalwarts among whom was Bodo Territorial Council chief and deliver a speech on behalf of the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh.
Participation at Bodo Sahitya Sabha was a historic moment for the Chakma community and also it was a massive success which truly strengthened Bodo-Chakma friendship.
Aadhar Card and Birth Certificates
There are some families so poor that they cannot even afford to pay the fees required for procuring important documents like the Birth certificates and Aadhar cards. CRDO conducted special awareness camps and is very pleased that it has managed to arrange and help these needy either free of cost or very minimal charges and provided free affidavits.
Trafficking of Minor Children
Many minor Chakma children are being sent outside the state to work as domestic help or maid and are subjected to cruelty and exploitation of all kinds. CRDO’s efforts helped such a minor boy and a girl which made their reunion with their family possible. CWWS members were engaged and awareness sessions against sending children to work to remote places done. With growing awareness, reported instances of minor Chakma children being sent away from their homes to work as domestic help or maid have come down. However, some children are still being sent away to work in a clandestine manner.
Counseling and awareness campaign about child marriage/human trafficking were carried out at Dumpani village. CRDO assisted filing of an FIR regarding a missing girl sent to work as maid was filed at Tinsukia PS and the case is still going on to trace the missing Chakma girl.
Illegal Sand mining
Extraction of boulder and sand not only increases soil erosion and vulnerability of river banks but also has the potential to change the river course which may inundate hundreds of villages in different directions. Let’s stop sand mining! Coordinated efforts have been put in place with other stakeholders to stop sand, shingles, boulder mining from Noa-Dehing banks and river bed.
Noa-Dehing Flood Victims
Nao Dehing claimed two lives this year. It swept away a woman and a young girl who hailed from Udaipur village during the peak flood season apart from eroding cultivable land on the sides of its banks and inundating vast expanse of lands for days on end destroying crops and vegetable plantations.
Drug addiction especially opium has been the bane of many a Chakma and other tribal youths. For most addicts, it is a condition of no return as they have no access to any kind of de-addiction facilities or professional counseling. Generally, victims of drug addiction see no hope of getting their lives back.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016
is pending before parliament and a memorandum to the Chairperson of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has been submitted from CRDO.
Electoral summary revision
Awareness campaigns have been extensively carried out and assistance provided to correctly fill the Form 6 for new voter enrolment.
Appeal and RTI against rejection of Form 6 in the matter of voter inclusion is pending before the appellate authorities.
When the final electoral draft roll was published, CRDO helped file individual claims and petitions to the District Electoral Officer against rejection of their voter enrolment applications. CRDO continues to follow up on and track the petitions filed earlier.
A memorandum was also submitted to ADC Bordumsa seeking clarity on form fill-up to avoid rejection on technical grounds in future as a preventive measure.
Letter to Prime Minister
A letter to Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narenda Modi ji has been written by the President of CRDO requesting the PM for political recognition of Chakmas and Hajong migrants as citizens of India, either through en-masse declaration or implementation of the Supreme Court order, special revision for enrolment of about 25,000 eligible voters and inclusion of all Chakma areas under local self-government (PRI) ; socio-economic rights and access to development schemes under the MGNREGA, NRLM, PMGAY, etc., government jobs/ employment , PRC, ration card and all other PDS entitlements, recognition of Chakma and Hajong tribes as ST in AP under article 342 of the Indian constitution and a one-time special package to compensate for the historical injustices done during the last 5 decades. A request for maintaining a conducive environment and peaceful co-existence to all the stakeholders and stop unnecessary harassment of poor and marginalized Chakma farmers commuting to and from Assam to sell vegetables at the state border areas/gates in the name of ILP, amongst other requests was placed before the Hon’ble PM for necessary consideration.The same has been forwarded to the state government for necessary action on 3rd Sep 2018 and is pending with the concerned authorities in the state.
Across several months during the year, a systematic data sensitization drive that involved helping illiterate families to survey existing documents and to check if there are any errors or mistakes in names, DoB or parents’ names etc. village-wise, details of family members enrolled in voter list, those who have Birth Certificate, EPIC card, Aadhar card, etc. was carried out.
Meanwhile, data correction drive started across 10-15 Chakma villages. People attended in large numbers and were sensitized about importance of having error free documents and why it is important to get it corrected. A corollary but important benefit of the data collection drive carried out thus far has been creation and spread of enhanced awareness among the public about the importance of having and maintaining error-free documents.
Important: Completion of the data correction drive will enhance the level of our readiness if NRC is implemented in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. In recent times, several reports have appeared in media about calls for implementation of NRC in several states of Northeast including a prominent Central Government Minister expressing similar views.
The data collection drive is inherently a massive project the absolute success of which will take sustained cooperation and initiative on the part of both village public leaders and general public alike. The importance of the data collection drive however cannot be overstated. The first step to any change initiative being undertaken is to measure the size of the problem. Unfortunately, no current organization has any credible data w.r.t. enrollment of voter list, registration of Birth certificates, Aadhar card, or land holding size, etc. So, the obvious question that arises is – how will we know if we are progressing or not when we don’t even know our current state?
Based on a sample village, where 98 families of 528 persons were surveyed, one-third of eligible people have not even applied for inclusion in voter list. This number will go up if we add those who don’t even know if they have applied or not.
It is sad to see that we have only 9% included as voters. Let’s work together to get the remaining 90% majority included. This is a key focus area for CRDO.
The sufferings being faced by the Chakma Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh at present are as under:
1. No citizenship rights (No ration card, no birth certificates, no access to employment opportunities, no access to government welfare schemes)
2. No ST rights, even though they are among the most backward and vulnerable groups.
3. No metal roads and bridges at different locations. No proper schools, no colleges. Most of the Government schools are running with staff shortages.
4. Regular floods wash away vast agricultural lands. Therefore many Chakma families become 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 Arunachal Pradesh 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. Partial Law and order enforcement agencies being misused to harass and victimise the innocent Chakma and Hajong people at every opportunity.
8. Extortion from poor Chakma/Hajong vegetable vendors at border district gates.
9. Indifferent, rude behaviour and discrimination being faced in offices and establishments in AP.
This list is by no means exhaustive. These are only some of the many issues plaguing the Chakma and Hajongs