Himanta rebuts Kiren Rijiju on Chakma-Hajong refugees, says no talks with Centre | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Himanta rebuts Kiren Rijiju on Chakma-Hajong refugees, says no talks with Centre

Apr 23, 2024 08:43 PM IST

Himanta Biswa Sarma’s statement came amid sharp criticism by the Congress, accusing the BJP of conspiring against Assam’s interests

GUWAHATI: Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday distanced himself from Union minister Kiren Rijiju’s controversial claims about settling Chakma-Hajong refugees of Arunachal Pradesh in Assam, saying the central government hadn’t spoken to the Assam government on the topic.

Himanta Biswa Sarma said Kiren Rijiju may have made some remarks regarding the political situation in Arunachal Pradesh (X/himantabiswa)
Himanta Biswa Sarma said Kiren Rijiju may have made some remarks regarding the political situation in Arunachal Pradesh (X/himantabiswa)

Sarma’s statement came amid sharp criticism by the Congress, accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring against Assam’s interests.“This is a dangerous conspiracy against Assam, which was exposed in Rijiju’s press conference. And it shows Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is also involved in it,” Assam Congress president Bhupen Kumar Borah said on Tuesday.

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“People of Assam will never accept such a proposal and will express their opposition through their votes in the second and third phases of polling,” Borah added, referring to Kiren Rijiju’s comments.

Rijiju, who is seeking re-election from the Arunachal West Lok Sabha seat, told reporters on Monday, that Arunachal Pradesh’s Chakma-Hajong refugees would be relocated to Assam and that these refugees would never have been allowed to settle down in Arunachal in the 1960s if the country had a Citizenship Amendment Act in place at the time.

“If CAA had been implemented earlier, then the settling of Chakma-Hajong refugees in Arunachal Pradesh between 1964 and 1970 would never have happened,” the union minister for earth sciences and food processing told reporters in Itanagar.

Rijiju added: “We have talked to the Assam government regarding the relocation (of Chakmas-Hajongs) and to identify places where they can be settled...Talks have been held with Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and union home minister Amit Shah as well to find some place (in Assam) and help us settle Chakma-Hajong”.

As the Opposition and other leaders cited Rijiju’s statement, Himanta Biswa Sarma issued a rebuttal.

“I am not aware of Rijiju’s statement. The central government hasn’t talked to us regarding this. Rijiju may have made some remarks regarding the political situation there (in Arunachal Pradesh). I will take it up with him after the elections,” Sarma told reporters on the sidelines of an election meeting on Tuesday.

“Where do we have the land to settle them? No one from the Chakma-Hajong community has approached me about it, nor has the Centre said anything. I have said that my government will provide permanent residence certificates to Assamese people (around 6000-7000) residing in Arunachal Pradesh” he added.

Chief of Raijor Dal and Sibasagar MLA, Akhil Gogoi, also slammed Rijijiu’s remarks and questioned whether Assam was a “dustbin” for foreigners.

Palash Changmai, president of All Assam Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), an influential student body in Assam, said: “We oppose the conspiracy being hatched to settle Chakma and Hajong residents in Assam. Our outfit will never agree to such a move and will oppose it tooth and nail”.

Chakmas and Hajongs, who are Buddhists and Hindus, migrated to India between 1964 and 1966 from the Chittagong Hills Tract (CHT) of then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to escape religious persecution and were settled in North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) (now Arunachal Pradesh) under a “Definite Plan of Rehabilitation” by allotting permanent land and financial assistance to rebuild their lives.

As per the 2011 Census, there are 47,471 Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh.

In two judgments in 1996 and 2015, the Supreme Court directed the central and state government to protect the life and liberty of Chakmas and Hajongs under Article 21 of the Indian constitution and confer citizenship to the Chakmas and Hajongs who have been left out.

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