Arunachal Pradesh, especially Itanagar, is burning with the PRC issue which has been boiling since the past few months in the Northeast state. While people in Itanagar and Namsai are vehemently protesting the recommendation of the state government-formed body, those in Mahadevpur (Lekang) are regularly blocking the national highway connecting Namsai calling the government to fulfil their promise of granting them PRC.
The News Mill takes an overview of the issue that has seen multiple injuries and properties worth lakhs damaged in the past few days.
What is PRC?
PRC or the Permanent Residence Certificate is a government issued certificate mainly used for the purpose of admission to educational institutions. The certificate proves the domicile of an applicant which enables him/her to obtain certain domicile-specific quota during admissions. The certificate may also be required for application to certain jobs/career opportunities.
What is the status of PRC in Arunachal Pradesh?
The Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes (APST) are the holders of PRC in Arunachal Pradesh. Many non-APST communities who are living in the state are demanding for PRC as they often fail to prove their permanent domicile status during various checks – educational and otherwise.
The main bone of contention lies in the fact that although these communities – some of whom are Scheduled Tribes in neighbouring Assam – are living in Arunachal Pradesh since many years, they don’t have the official land rights either. While they are regarded as non-tribal in Arunachal Pradesh and not offered PRC, their counterparts in Assam enjoy PRC and land rights.
Who are these communities? Where are they living in Arunachal Pradesh?
The communities include Deori, Sonowal Kachari, Moran, Adivasi, and Mishing, living in the Namsai and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Deori community lives at Sompoi (in Changlang district and Bordumsa-Diyun Assembly constituency), Mahadevpur and Mohong (in Namsai district and Lekang Assembly constituency). The Sonowal Kachari, Moran, Adivasi and Mishing communities are living in Bordumsa-Diyun constituency as well as Lekang Constituency.
Besides these, the Gorkhas and ex-servicemen living in the remote Vijoynagar circle of Changlang district are also seeking PRC. Interestingly, they are settled on land leased from the Yobin community and are paying rent. The current lease expires in 2020.
What is the concern of the APSTs?
The tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh are concerned that giving PRCs to the non-tribal communities will lead to the dilution of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act of 1873 which leads to the Inner Line Permit (ILP) rule in the state. The rule makes it mandatory for all non-permanent residents and visitors to obtain Inner Line Permits before entering Arunachal Pradesh. Check gates are established at various entry points in the state where ILP is checked before entry.
The APSTs believe that giving PRC will lead to easy flow of non-tribals into the tribal land and will affect their culture in the long run.
While the All Arunachal Students’ Union (AAPSU) said that they see no harm in giving PRCs to the non-tribals who are living in the state since a long time, the students’ union categorically said that having a PRC should not mean that non-APST communities need not take ILP for entering/living in the state/tribal land. They asked the Joint High Power Committee (JHPC), the government-formed committee who were reviewing the PRC demand process, to make it mandatory that the PRCs are not treated as ILPs.
How the state government was dealing with the demand for PRC?
The Arunachal Pradesh government formed a Joint High Power Committee (JHPC) with senior politicians, student leaders, members of various communities, among others, to look into the demand for PRC in the state.
The JHPC held meetings at various places – Changlang, Namsai, Tezu etc. – and discussed the issue with various stakeholders. The committee was given the deadline of January, 2019 to submit a report. The JHPC, under the chairmanship of senior minister Nabam Rebia, met 8 times.
Why suddenly people took to the streets on the PRC issue?
While the final recommendation of the JHPC was supposed to be ready (submission deadline was January, 2019), Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu suggested at an event in Vijoynagar on December 7, 2018, that the state government is looking forward to grant PRC to the non-APST communities.
During the same time, Arunachal Pradesh deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, who represents the Lekang Assembly constituency, also told the media at an event in Assam that the state government will give a “New Year gift” to the non-tribal communities in the form of PRC.
The statements, apart from other comments from the members of the JPHC, suggested that the committee will recommend grant of PRC to the 6 non-tribal communities.
Meanwhile, the PRC demanding communities intensified their demand for PRC in the state. The national highway connecting Namsai, which passes through Dirak in Tinsukia district of Assam and the Deori-dominated Mahadevpur area of Arunachal Pradesh, was blocked for a number of days. Besides, ‘economic blockades’ were staged to press their demand for PRC.
What happened on February 21-22, 2019?
As many as 18 organizations, which included civil society and students’ unions, called for a 48-hour Arunachal Pradesh bandh protesting the alleged recommendation of the JPHC on granting PRC to the 6 communities. The JPHC report was supposed to be tabled in the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly during the current session.
The report was kept for tabling on February 23 but late on February 22 night, chief minister Pema Khandu declared that in view of the protests the report will not be tabled during the current session of the Assembly.
PS: The Legislative Assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh are due with the Lok Sabha polls in April, 2019.
Disclaimer: The writer tried to explain the PRC issue in Arunachal Pradesh for an overview. There are many concerns – from both the sides – which were not included in this primer, to make it as compact as possible. Reader’s discretion advised. Comments and suggestions are welcome.