Who are Chakma and Hajong refugees ?

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The government is all set to give citizenship to over one lakh Chakma-Hajongs, Buddhists and Hindus who fled to India in the 1960s to escape religious persecution in the Chittagong Hill area of Bangladesh.

Chakma-Hajongs refugees protest against the communal attacks

The move came following an order of the Supreme Court, which in 2015 had directed the Central government to grant citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees, mostly staying in Arunachal Pradesh.

Who are Chakma and Hajong refugees ?

The Chakma are an ethnic group who began fleeing in the 1960s to northeastern India from former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, partly because they were being persecuted because of their religion.

Out of those who reached India, most of them were Chakmas and only 2,000 were Hajong.

They are scattered in Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya and West Bengal as well as in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh and western parts of Myanmar.

The Chakmas are Buddhists; the Hajongs are Hindus. Both groups originally entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram) and were then moved to Arunachal.

The Chakma and Hajong refugees did not have citizenship and land rights. They were provided basic amenities by the state government.

However, some organisations and people in Arunachal have argued that granting citizenship to refugees would reduce indigenous tribal communities to a minority and deprive them of opportunities.

Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, had recently raised the citizenship issue at a Northeast meet chaired by Rajnath Singh.

In 2015, the Supreme Court had given a deadline to the central government to confer citizenship to these refugees within three months.

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