At a time when the Rohingya crisis has gripped the Centre, the government is mulling granting citizenship to Chakma (Buddhists) and Hajong (Hindu) refugees, nearly a lakh in the country. They came in from east Pakistan and are predominantly residing in Arunachal Pradesh.
Home minister Rajnath Singh, minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju and top officials met with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu, when the issue of granting them citizenship was discussed.
"The SC has ordered that they be granted citizenship status. The MHA will respond in the court. But as per the constitutional provisions and various existing regulations, we can't equate them with the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh," Rijiju told THE WEEK.
While a large section of people in Arunachal Pradesh have been resisting the move to grant citizenship to Chakmas, the court directive has forced the government to put on its thinking cap. Officials said they may not be granted the rights to purchase land and may be allowed to work and travel after giving them inner line permit .
It is another story that the home ministry is trying to send Rohingya refugees back to their country by asking state governments to deport them, after they fled Myanmar citing atrocities they faced there for years.
At this juncture, the focus is on the Chakmas and Hajong refugees, since the apex court directed the Centre to grant them citizenship. They have been staying in camps. Home ministry sources said the move to allow them citizenship could be in line with the government's stance of granting citizenship to those who have been victims of religious presecution.
Rijiju, who was present in the meeting, was recently in the eye of storm after he said that Rohingyas were illegal immigrants. He also said that India absorbed the maximum number of refugees in the world. His views were countered by the United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein in Geneva recently; the latter decried attempts being made by the Indian government to deport Rohingyas.