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North East

No talks with Centre on relocating Chakma, Hajong refugees in Assam, says Himanta Sarma

Guwahati, April 23: The central government has not discussed anything over the relocation of Chakma and Hajong refugess in Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed on Tuesday.
His statement comes following Union Minister Kiren Rijiju’s remarks that there has been talks to relocate these refugees from Arunachal Pradesh to Assam after the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
“I don’t know what Rijiju has said, but the government of India has not discussed these matters with us. Rijiju might have perhaps said something in view of the political situation in Arunachal Pradesh,” Sarma told reporters on the sidelines of a poll campaign meeting.
The CM also maintained that there is no land available to re-settle the refugees and added, “No one from Chakma or Hajong communities has met me nor has the government of India discussed it with me. I will speak with Rijiju about the matter after the elections.”
Sarma said that Assamese people residing in Arunachal Pradesh, numbering about 6,000-7,000, will be given permanent resident certificates by the Assam government.
Rijiju, who is seeking re-election to the Lok Sabha from Arunachal Pradesh, had claimed at a press conference in Itanagar last week that CAA has been a ‘big blessing’ as it has closed doors for citizenship to any foreigner or refugee in his state.
He said the Chakma, Hajong refugees have been requested to leave the state, with the government of India to facilitate their re-location.
“We have spoken to Assam government, other people for relocation, but we do not want to discuss much about it before identification (of land for resettlement) is done. I can give this indication that we have talked to Assam government,” the Union Minister said.
Rijiju added that he has spoken to Sarma in this regard, and also with Union Home minister Amit Shah to relocate the refugees.
Chakmas, who are Buddhists, and Hajongs, who are Hindus, migrated to India between 1964 and 1966 from the Chittagong Hills Tract of then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to escape religious persecution, and were settled in the Northeast Frontier Agency, which is the present-day Arunachal Pradesh.
More than 60,000 Chakma and Hajong refugees reside in Arunachal Pradesh since 1960s.
Rijiju’s statement has led to sharp reactions in Assam, with organisations leading the anti-CAA movement in the stand demanding clarification from the chief minister in this regard.
Raijor Dal President and MLA Akhil Gogoi said, “Sarma should clarify whether he has received any such instructions from the government of India or Amit Shah. And if Rijiju is lying, Sarma should force him to apologise publicly.”
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) chief advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharjya also reiterated their stand against the CAA.
“We are continuing with our democratic fight as well as legal fight. And it is a positive thing that the Northeast Students’ Organisation is at the lead in opposing the Act for the entire region,” he said.
Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) general secretary Jagdish Bhuyan alleged that not just Chakmas or Hajongs, illegal migrants from all other Northeastern states which are outside the ambit of CAA will be settled in Assam.
“Our question remains that if the Act is not good for most parts of Northeast, how can it be okay for some areas of Assam,” he questioned.
The CAA seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis entering India on or before December 31, 2014, from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after five years of residence here.
However, the Act is not applicable in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur, where Inner Line Permit is required to enter the state.
Areas under the Sixth Schedule, including almost Meghalaya in its entirety and tribal-dominated parts of Assam and Tripura, have also been exempted from it. (PTI)

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