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SC's decision to grant citizenship to eligible Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal must be honoured
The landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of India to grant citizenship to eligible Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh has taken the eastern frontier state by storm. Certain organisations especially All Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union (AAPSU) have reacted to the SC's verdict as if it were a jolt out of the blue; as if they didn't see it coming.
Nevertheless, the reaction that it evoked is surprising. The simple reason is that it was only natural on the part of the SC to yet again only validate the logical as well as true status of the Chakmas and Hajongs. Although AAPSU have always claimed that it has made the citizenship issue of the Chakmas and Hajongs its own, a section of the local intellectuals are only right in arguing that the said issue should never had organisations such as AAPSU as stakeholders in the forefront rather it was the state government, which should have dealt with it.

In addition, they have reiterated that the stage where protests should have been registered against the grant of citizenship to eligible Chakmas and Hajongs is past it while certain emboldened ones have even said that the apex court's verdict cannot be disobeyed now.

For the first time, AAPSU have been pointed fingers at, and rightly so, when it was said that AAPSU have mishandled the issue big time, which eventually culminated in the SC asking the Central and state government to grant citizenship to eligible Chakmas and Hajongs within three months.

Meanwhile, AAPSU is trying to pass the buck on to the state government alleging inaction on the part of the latter. Yet, it became evident from how the ruling dispensation in Arunachal Pradesh have buckled under the strain of AAPSU's pressure in this critical hour that the latter, for a student body and for reasons unidentified, exercises tremendous political clout to be able to impose its unilateral views; as on a couple of occasions, they have openly declared that they can topple governments. But these are worrying signs as the way things are; it demeans the very administration and the government at large.

It is however noteworthy that the apex court has for the second time passed a major verdict in favour of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh. In response, AAPSU and the state government have announced that they would file review petitions yet again.

They, especially AAPSU, by trying to question the SC verdicts time and again have projected that they do not have faith in the apex court. Soon enough, it might even appear like contempt of the apex court. Meanwhile, the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh JP Rajkhowa in a review meeting observed that the people of the state and the state government appear to have no objection to granting citizenship to eligible Chakmas and Hajongs but they are totally against their settlement in Arunachal Pradesh.

But to think of resettling real humans anew at new locations after having been residents here for almost two generations now is just unimaginably illogical and that must have never happened anywhere in the world in the history of mankind.

The neutral observers have often questioned whether AAPSU among others really does see the glaring truth or that they refuse to see it. History is witness; the years were 1964-69; Arunachal Pradesh was not even born then when the Chakmas and Hajongs migrated to India. It's been more than half a century now.

Besides, it was a conscious decision taken by the Indian Government then to rehabilitate the displaced populace in the wake of the construction of the Kaptai Dam in erstwhile East Pakistan. Hence, the argument that the local government or the local people were not consulted before settling the Chakmas and Hajongs in erstwhile North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) does not hold water as the Central Government then had sole discretion in this regard. Some have even argued that the decision vis-a-vis settlement of the Chakmas and Hajongs is historically erroneous.

This is the year 2015 and if viewed through the lens of the present times, it might be deemed flawed. But they must also try and consider it in the context of the years 1964-69. It is unfair to judge a decision taken more than fifty years earlier in the context of the present times. And, unfortunately, Science has not yet invented Time Machine which would have enabled the stakeholders to set the historical wrong right. But that does not mean that the Chakmas and Hajongs be endlessly denied justice and their human rights.

On the other hand, the question of being indigenous people is unendingly debatable. In the current context, even a large chunk of the people of Arunachal Pradesh might not be deemed technically correct if they claimed to be indigenous as because if they are indigenous, given the couple of definitions more or less widely accepted, so are the Chakmas and Hajongs.

It is noteworthy that even the United Nations have struggled to come up with a unanimously agreeable definition of 'indigenous people'. When it comes to the question of the Chakmas and Hajongs disturbing the ethnic or local demographic balance of the state, it is noteworthy that they have settled and lived here harmoniously for more than 50 years now. They have now become an integral part of Arunachal Pradesh, establishing close ties with their neighbouring communities and assimilating seamlessly in the cultural fabric of the state even as strengthening their own; their settlement areas are in fact a true reflection of unity in diversity in the truest sense.

It is also noteworthy that the Chakmas who migrated at the same time and settled across various parts of North-east India viz. Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and West Bengal were conferred citizenship rights. But despite being of the same ilk, those who settled in Arunachal Pradesh largely got the status of 'Refugee'. The basic question which would be raised in this regard is: Are there dual policies in any country or even in India to deal with the same type of migrants/immigrants.

Incidentally, the Constitution of India which is the supreme book of the land and the parliament of India has all legal suggestions in favour of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh.

Too much time has already elapsed. Given the time frame, even an individual with average IQ would put up the following question: How have they survived for so long in such utter deprivation? Even Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju acknowledges that the Chakmas and Hajongs have already suffered a great deal. The gruelling more than half a century itself stand to incriminate those who are trying to defy the SC's similar verdicts for the second time in a row.

One of other Rijiju's recent statements is also ponderable in this connection. He said that Arunachal Pradesh is not isolated from the rest of India. Sure, the rest of India is also watching, not to mention, the global human rights groups. The fact remains that if one wants to find faults, no one can stop him from doing so.

The same applies in the context of interpreting the SC verdict too. However, if one wilfully overlooks the bigger issue and instead nitpicks over the peripheral issues, he risks being branded a cry-baby and an incorrigible one at that. History, logical justification and basic humanitarian approach must be relied upon to project a positive image of Arunachal Pradesh in the eyes of the world at large. The times are critical now.

The people of Arunachal Pradesh must not be swayed by the juvenile opinion of certain groups especially AAPSU while the top leadership of Arunachal Pradesh must not be bogged down by the threats posed by certain groups that border on being unruly and rowdy anti-democratic bullies. Steps must be taken now to honour the considered verdict of the Supreme Court of India. In any case, there is not much of an option as the reputation and integrity of Arunachal Pradesh is at stake.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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