Chakmas and Hajong
5th May, 2020
The Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene with the Government of Arunachal Pradesh against massive hunger and starvation among 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs, who are citizens of India, because of their exclusion from the “economic package for vulnerable sections in these difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic.
The Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene with the Government of Arunachal Pradesh against massive hunger and starvation among 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs, who are citizens of India, because of their exclusion from the “economic package for vulnerable sections in these difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic
- The Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens of India. The Chakmas and Hajongs are ethnic people who lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, most of which are located in Bangladesh.
- The Chakmas and Hajongs, originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of the former East Pakistan, had to flee when their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s.
- Buddhists by faith, the Chakmas faced religious persecution in East Pakistan along with the Hajongs, who are Hindus.
- Out of those who reached India, most of them were Chakmas and only 2,000 were Hajong.
- The groups entered India through what was then the Lushai Hills district of Assam (today’s Mizoram).
- While some stayed back with Chakmas already living in the Lushai Hills, the Indian government moved a majority of the refugees to present-day Arunachal Pradesh.
- On 12th April 2020, the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh announced the “economic package for vulnerable sections in these difficult times of Covid-19 pandemic”, among others, to provide “5 kg Rice / person and 1 kg pulses / person to PHH and AAY beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Garib Ann Yojana”.
- However, on 14 April 2020, the State of Arunachal Pradesh issued another notification stating that “any Tea Estates/ Commercial establishments/ individuals” of Diyun circle, Changlang district can purchase the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) of the rice received from Food Corporation of India at the “rate of Rs 27.00 per kg for wholesale selling and at the rate of Rs 29 for retail selling”.
- The order dated 14 April 2020 targets the Chakmas and Hajongs who live under Diyun circle of Arunachal Pradesh.
- They do not have ration cards as the State Government had illegally and arbitrarily seized their ration cards vide order on 25 October 1991 and therefore, they have to buy under the OMSS.
Denial of food:
- The denial of food is a violation of the right to life guaranteed under:
- Article 21 of the Constitution of India
- Judgment of the Supreme Court in National Human Rights Commission Vs State of Arunachal Pradesh & Anr dated 9 January 1996 that “the State of Arunachal Pradesh, shall ensure that the life and personal liberty of each and every Chakma residing within the State”.
- The Chakmas and Hajongs having suffered State sponsored discrimination in the last 56 years are extremely poor, below the poverty line but are being forced to buy at rice Rs 29 per kg because their ration cards were illegally and arbitrarily seized by the State government of Arunachal Pradesh in 1991.
Calling starvation of the Chakmas and Hajongs especially children an act of grave inhumanity and cruelty, the RRAG urged to provide all Chakmas and Hajongs rice at Rs 5 per kg immediately till June 2020 or any time as may be extended by the Union of India and take all necessary measures to fully implement the National Food Security Act including identification of eligible households among the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh, and their right to receive foodgrains at subsidised prices by persons belonging to eligible households under Targeted Public Distribution System, nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers, nutritional support to children etc.