The Students United Movement of All Arunachal (SUMAA) has strongly opposed the recent announcements made by Chief Minister Pema Khandu and Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein that the State government was considering issuing permanent resident certificates (PRC) to six Non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribe (APST) communities living in the Namsai and Changlang districts and to the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar.
The SUMAA on Tuesday cautioned that the State government would face strong opposition from the Union if the PRCs were granted to the Non-APSTs.
“The work of an elected leader is to focus on development and safeguard the rights of the indigenous people. Instead of doing so, the leaders here are polluting the peaceful scenario by making such statements and assurances,” SUMAA general secretary Suraj Ligu said in a statement.
“The claims made by the people of Lekang area that they are ok with the granting of PRCs to the Non-APSTs are baseless and it will soon face strong resistance from every corner of Arunachal,” he said.
Khandu, while addressing a public meeting at Vijaynagar in Changlang on Friday, had announced that his government is looking upon the odds on granting PRCs to the non-APST communities living in Namsai and Changlang districts.
He, however, said the interests of the indigenous tribal population would be taken into consideration and cut-off dates would be set to qualify for PRC. Mein said in Assam recently that granting PRCs to the Non-APSTs would be a New Year gift for them.
The SUMAA alleged that the politicians of the State were repeatedly breaching the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act of 1873 which protects and preserves the tribal identity of the indigenous population of Arunachal Pradesh.
The BEFR Act prohibits all citizens of India from entering the state without an inner line permit (ILP). It also forbids the foreigners from buying land, settling and doing business in the State.
The All Changlang District Students’ Union (ACDSU) has also condemned the statements of Khandu and Mein, particularly the one made by the former on granting PRCs to the Gorkha community living in Vijaynagar in the Changlang district by January 2019.
“The government needs to respect the rights and concerns of the indigenous people. Before making such hasty announcements, the government should also give an opportunity to the locals of the district to speak,” Chumtu Tunghkhang, the general secretary of ACDSU said.
The Gorkhas presently settled at Vijaynagar were brought in the state for a temporary basis and on lease settlement for 30 years.
The deed of agreement on lease will be over by 2020. Granting PRC to Gorkhas would eventually lead to more such demands by several other communities in the coming days, the union added.
Besides the SUMAA and ACDSU, several other organizations like the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union, All Papum Pare District Students’ Union and Arunachal Pradesh Abotani Community Confederation have already raised their voice against the government’s announcement.
Representatives from a number of communities that are not recognized as Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the State have been demanding that they should be provided with PRCs as they have been living in the State for decades.
Amongst those communities are Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Mishings. Most of these communities are recognized as Scheduled Tribe communities in Assam.