NE Dispatch: Dispute Over Chakma-Hajong Refugees in Arunachal; Japan to Build War Museum in Manipur

A round-up of what’s happening in India’s Northeast.

Chakma refugees attending a Buddha puja in Arunachal. Credit: Special Arrangement

Arunachal Pradesh: AAPSU reiterates opposition to Centre granting citizenship to Chakma and Hajong refugees

With the Narendra Modi government working towards granting citizenship to the Chakma and Hajong refugees residing in Arunachal Pradesh, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has once again reiterated its longstanding opposition to it.

Terming the Centre’s decision “ridiculous and an insult to indigenous people of the state,” AAPSU general secretary Tobom Dai recently told local reporters in Itanagar after a meeting of the organisation on the issue, “The union’s stand is clear from day one and we will not allow anyone to undermine our aspiration.” Dai said AAPSU would conduct a consultative meeting with its former leaders, community-based organisations, NGOs, etc. to draw “a roadmap to fight the issue”.

Chakma and Hajong refugees came to India from the Chittagong Hill Tracts of present-day Bangladesh after their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s. They entered India through present-day Mizoram (it was then the Lushai hills district of Assam). Between 1964 and 1969, the then central government moved the refugees (they were approximately 5,000 in number then) to the North-East Frontier Agency before it became the state of Arunachal Pradesh. While the Chakmas are Buddhist, the Hajongs are Hindus.

Hearing a petition of the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh (CCRCHAP), the Supreme Court in 2015 asked the Centre to grant citizenship to them within three months.

However, not just the AAPSU but the state government has also been opposed to the Centre granting citizenship to the refugees, claiming it would reduce the indigenous people to a minority. The state government appealed against the 2015 SC order, following which consultations began between the Centre and the state government on the issue.

Approximately, the present population of the Chakmas and Hajongs are about a lakh in the state.

Recently, media reports quoting home ministry sources said the consultations with the state government “is underway” and “granting of citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs will not entitle them the rights enjoyed by the scheduled tribes of the state, such as ownership of land.”

According to reports, the Centre “is also looking at granting inner line permit to the refugees” which will allow them to stay and work in the state but not grant them land rights.

Recently, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) also opposed the Centre’s move. In a press note released in New Delhi on May 24 CCRCHAP said it had written a letter to Takam Sanjoy, the president of APCC, expressing concern over “the strong opposition against grant of citizenship” expressed by the committee.

CCRCHAP general secretary Santosh Chakma said it has “requested Sanjoy to honour the consistent stand of previous Congress governments at the Centre for granting citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs of the state.”

“Successive Congress-led governments at the Centre had recommended granting of citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh in 1972, 1982, 1992 and in 1994, and we only expect that the APCC will honour the decisions of their previous governments,” the letter said.

Nagaland: CM’s son vacates assembly seat to make way for father’s election to the state assembly 

Nagaland chief minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu’s son Khreihu Liezietsu resigned from the state assembly on May 24, thus vacating the Northern Angami assembly seat to facilitate the election of his father to the house as an MLA.

The 81-year-old Naga People’s Front (NPF) president took over the reins of the state from T. R. Zeliang in February following widespread violence against the government’s decision to hold urban local body elections with 33% reservation for women.

Shurhozelie Liezietsu at the swearing-in ceremony In Kohima. Credit: PTI

Not being a member of the 60-member assembly, Shurhozelie has to get himself elected within six months. It is now clear that he will contest the by-elections from his son’s seat. A veteran politician, Shurhozelie won from the Northern Angami seat for eight years. In 2013, his son was given an NPF ticket to contest from the seat.

On May 24, the state assembly secretariat issued a notification saying the speaker had accepted Khriehu’s resignation from the house.

Manipur: Japan to build a war museum in the state

Kenji Hiramatsu, the Japanese ambassador to India said in New Delhi recently that Japan will build a war museum at Maibam Lokpa Ching in Manipur’s Bishnupur districtt.

A Second World War battle ground, Maibam Lokpa Ching was where the British and the Japanese fought each other. An estimated 30,000 Japanese soldiers died in that war and in the one in Kohima. The battle of Kohima was termed the fiercest battle of the Second World War by the British government.

Expressing the willingness to build the museum during a meeting with Jitendra Singh, minister of state for DoNER (Department of North East Region), on May 18, the ambassador also conveyed his government’s interest to invest in the Northeast.

Jitender Singh with Japan ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu. Credit: Twitter/@DrJitendraSingh

He said the preferred states which his government looks forward to invest in the region are Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

The ambassador also sought cooperation from the people of both Manipur and Nagaland to locate the mortal remains of the Japanese soldiers. He said the Japanese government will also soon invite 25 youth from Manipur and Nagaland to visit Japan.

Mizoram: State government to introduce anti-tobacco lessons in middle school syllabus to curb high consumption rate

In order to help curb the high consumption rate of tobacco in Mizoram, the state government has decided to introduce anti-tobacco lessons in the middle school syllabus from the next academic session.

The decision is a part of the government’s new economic development policy, as per which it plans to make early intervention to curb tobacco usage and drug abuse. According to local media reports, the state government will first introduce it in 50 middle schools in the Aizawl district.

The tobacco consumption rate is the highest in Mizoram. Credit: Reuters

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GAT) report, released last November, stated that 67.2% of people in Mizoram use different forms of tobacco products, making it the highest in India. While a large number of people in the state use tobacco in the form of cigarettes and bidis, an even larger number use smokeless tobacco – like khaini, zarda and gutkha products. The 2009-10 GAT report said 9.3% of the tobacco users get into it before attaining the age of 15.

According to local media reports, a study conducted by the Mizoram State Tobacco Control Society a few years ago also found that at least 54% of high school students in the state use tobacco products, thus leading the government to make the recent move.