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Resettlement of refugees will alter demographic balance of Upper Assam dists: Forum

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Guwahati, April 24: Prabajan Virodhi Manch (PVM) convenor Upamanyu Hazarika has expressed apprehension over Union minister Kiren Rijiju’s statement regarding resettlement of Chakmas and Hajongs (living in Arunachal Pradesh) in Assam post implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), while observing that such a development would have significant implications for the Upper Assam districts bordering Arunachal Pradesh.

Among those districts that could be affected (if such a resettlement were to take place in Assam) are Charaideo, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Sonitpur and Udalguri.

“So far infiltration has happened from the districts bordering Bangladesh, for which reason the border districts of Dhubri, Barpeta, Barak Valley districts and Nagaon (for historical reasons) have a majority of Bangladeshi-origin persons. But a resettlement is now going to happen from the Arunachal side, and the empty lands/ forests in the districts bordering Arunachal Pradesh will be the first target,” Hazarika, who is also a Supreme Court advocate, said.

“Needless to say, the demographic balance in these areas having small close knit indigenous communities will be altered like lower Assam,” he said.

In this regard, the convener of PVM, which is a forum against illegal immigrants, cited the case of Naoboisa in Lakhimpur district, which saw a huge influx of Bangladeshi Muslims from Arunachal Pradesh, who are in majority in that area, with a decisive say in the electoral outcome there.

“The approach of the state BJP under the leadership of Himanta Biswa Sarma in its approach to migrants is ‘secular’. Though the professed stand of the BJP, reflected in the CAA is in favour of the minority religions of Bangladesh, primarily Hindus and the Chakmas being Buddhists, however, Sarma has expanded the benefits to migrant Muslims,” Hazarika said.

“Last month, the chief minister urged the Muslim migrants to adopt indigenous habits and become indigenous. Besides, he also constituted a development council for Muslim fishermen from Bangladesh and whose leaders are openly praising Sarma. The focus of the BJP under Sarma is to go for the migrant Muslim support, extend assurances of security. Now, even the NRC (National Register of Citizens) is no longer on the election manifesto of the BJP,” he said.

The PVM convenor further observed that the “biggest tragedy of indigenous communities in Assam is that their own leaders do not protect the community’s interests and their identity, unlike the leaders in the other Northeastern states.”

“The Chakmas and the Hajongs have been settled in Arunachal Pradesh since 1964, but till date have not been given permanent resident status as it would upset the delicate demographic balance, by adding 10 percent to the population of 12 indigenous tribes. In spite of the Supreme Court judgment of 1998 giving protection to the Chakmas and Hajongs, the state and its leadership fiercely protected the interests of small tribes,” Hazarika pointed out.

“Assam also has over 100 small ethnic communities and the leaders over here find it more expedient to cultivate the migrant vote bank regardless of the consequences for their own communities,” he said.

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