The All India Chakma Social Forum, an apex body of the Chakmas of India, on November 21 stated that it opposed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill.
The forum, in a statement released to the media, said that the bill has become an instrument to vilify the Chakma community as “foreigners” and beneficiaries of the CAB despite the Chakmas being citizens of India and notified as Scheduled Tribes by the President of India in 1950 in Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
“There were 2.2 lakh Chakmas in India as per 2011 census. Out of these 96,972 Chakmas were in Mizoram, 79,813 were in Tripura and 2,032 were in Assam and in all these states, Chakmas are citizens of India,” stated Paritosh Chakma, Secretary General of the AICSF.
“The Chakmas have been living in the Western Belt of Mizoram from time immemorial. In 1898, a portion of then Chittagong Hill Tracts covering the current Western belt of Mizoram inhabited by the Chakmas was included into the Lushai Hills for administrative purposes. The Chakmas were accorded the Chakma Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India in 1972. There is not a single Chakma foreigner residing in Mizoram as per the statement of then Home Minister R Lalzirliana in the State Assembly on November 15, 2017. It is a fact that there are over 100,000 Myanmarese Chin refugees in Mizoram, out of which 4,000 have been granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in New Delhi,” Chakma added.
The Mizos (Lushais), Tripuris and Chakmas live on both sides of India–Bangladesh borders.
“There were 47,073 Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh as per 2011 census and most of them are citizens by birth as per the existing Citizenship Act 1955. There are about 4,500 surviving Chakma and Hajongs migrants who migrated during 1964 to 1969 and their citizenship applications are not being processed despite two Supreme Court judgments and monitoring by the Supreme Court. The CAB is not applicable to the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh even though there are acts of racial discrimination and non-compliance with the Supreme Court orders,” said Santosh Chakma, General Secretary of the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh.
“There is a vested interest to vilify the Chakmas in the Northeast. Since the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 whenever Chakmas sought refuge in India, they were always housed in camps in Tripura and repatriated to Bangladesh with the last repatriation taking place in 1998 following the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord of 1997. The Chakmas are the only group of refugees in India who have always been kept in camps and repatriated to Bangladesh while all other refugees whether Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Myanamarese Chins and Myanmarese Rohingyas have never been repatriated to their country of origin,” Paritosh Chakma added.
“The time has come for many community organizations in the Northeast to stop xenophobia against the Chakmas as foreigners in the Northeast. The entire population of the Chakmas in the world is about 5.5 lakhs including 3 lakhs in Bangladesh, 2.2 lakhs in India and 30,000 in Myanmar. The Chakmas do not pose any threat to any community and the Chakmas are fighting for their rights wherever they are residing. However, xenophobia against the Chakmas has reached such an insane level that Chakmas whose population in Assam was 2,032 persons as per 2011 census are targeted by a few local NGOs as threat to over 3 crore population of Assam,” Paritosh Chakma said.