Itanagar: In a memorandum addressed to Deputy Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh and Chairman, State Level High Powered Ministerial Committee (SLHPMC), the Joint Action Committee (JAC) comprising of the local/state-based Chakma and Hajong CBO/NGOs of Arunachal Pradesh outlined its objections against the SLHPMC charter including the conduct of special census of all the Chakma and Hajong people and demarcation of settlement areas.

The JAC as the apex body representing the collective voice of the Chakma and Hajong people stated that the idea of demarcation of settlement areas of Chakma and Hajongs of the state as per the area comprising of the so-called “originally designated camps and keeping them within the said designated camps” is flawed, divisionary and misleading because, unlike the Tibetans who are residing in temporary refugee/designated camps, the Chakmas and Hajongs were taken to NEFA by the Government of India traversing 1200 km from the CHT for permanent rehabilitation and were rehabilitated already under 5 settlement Schemes, dispersed over 45-50 villages.

The memorandum added, “It is unfortunate that due to the Foreigners agitation in Assam, which later snowballed into Arunachal Pradesh, the Chakmas/Hajongs became a soft target and were branded as “refugees”, “foreigners” due to this misplaced identity. This mistaken identity was further fuelled by vested interests who played to the gallery and created confusion in the minds of the naïve local Arunachali populace, as the Chakma Hajong issue was used for political mileage just like the proverbial geese that lay the golden eggs year after year.”

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It added that there are non-Chakmas settled in Chakma settlement areas and the so-called “demarcation of designated camps” cannot be operationalized in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, mixed society where people of different tribes, ethnicity live together. There is a need for a progressive and politically inclusive government that accommodates and empowers people of diverse races, ethnic origins and religions. 

While calling on the state government to withdraw any plans of relocation, if any, and issue clarificatory statements to assuage public angst and anxiety in this regard, the JAC said that policy of demarcation and segregation has not worked anywhere in the world and will not work here, the JAC said.

The JAC welcomed the idea of resettlement/shifting of Chakma-Hajong people rendered landless owing to submergence/inundation of their original allotted land or other similar natural factors and finding alternate land for resettlement within the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Regarding the conduct of Special Census of all the Chakma and Hajong people in the state to ascertain their present population, the JAC is of the considered opinion that the census of Chakmas and Hajong population was done as late as 2015-16 through the Deputy Commissioner and shared by the Hon’ble Chief Minister on the floor of the State Legislative Assembly in January 2020. 

Based on the National Census data available in the public domain, the annual growth rate of the Chakma/Hajong population is lower (2.6%) than the overall annual growth rate of the population of the state which stood at 2.87% (50-year period).

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“The decadal growth rate for the Chakma-Hajong population was 17% for the period 2001-2011 as against the overall decadal growth rate of 26% for the state. So, the abnormal population growth of Chakmas and Hajongs is only a politically constructed myth to spread lies, falsehoods and create xenophobia”, the memorandum added. 

Furthermore, the National Census done every 10 years was already due in 2021 and the population of all the tribes and communities, including that of Chakmas and Hajongs can be ascertained through the 2021 Census of India which is likely to be done in 2022 by the Office of the Register General and Census Commissioner, India under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 

Hence, any special census of Chakma and Hajong population at this juncture is unwarranted and pointless. 

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