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Statement on Chakma-Hajong refugees misinterpreted, clarifies Rijiju

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Guwahati, April 25: Amidst concerns and apprehensions among various sections in Assam, Union minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday clarified that his statement on the relocation of Chakma-Hajong refugees from Arunachal Pradesh had been “misinterpreted” with an aim to “tarnish the image” of Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Notably, Rijiju, while addressing the media in Itanagar on Monday, had said that the Chakma-Hajong refugees were “staying as guests in Arunachal” and were therefore not entitled to get a permanent resident certificate (PRC) of citizenship in that state.

Speaking to mediapersons in New Delhi, Rijiju, who is seeking re-election as an MP from Arunachal, said, “My statement has been twisted and the news being spread in Assam that the Chakma-Hajong refugees would be resettled only in Assam is factually incorrect. Such misinterpretation has been done to tarnish the image of chief minister and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma at a time when elections are being conducted in Assam.”

The Union minister, while giving a historical perspective, said that the Chakma-Hajong refugees were settled in Arunachal by the then Congress government between 1964 and 1970.

“As far as my statement is concerned, I had only said that we need to explore alternative arrangements for relocation of Chakma-Hajong refugees from Arunachal Pradesh to other states because the Chakma-Hajong refugees, according to the Citizenship Amendment Act passed in Parliament, cannot get permanent resident certificates for citizenship in Arunachal, which is a tribal state,” Rijiju clarified.

“Subsequently, we had taken up the matter with Union home minister in regard to requesting to the members of the Chakma-Hajong communities to relocate to other states. We had asked help from the NEDA convenor in this regard as well. But I had never said that all Chakma-Hajong refuges should be settled in Assam only,” Rijiju said.

The Union minister further said that “apparently there has been a misinformation campaign spread, amidst the Lok Sabha elections, by sections that he and chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma held talks to resettle the Chakma-Hajong refugees from Arunachal Pradesh in Assam.”

Rijiju further condemned the “the misleading news that could harm communal harmony among people of the two neighbouring states”, reiterating that he had only appealed to the NEDA convenor to help in regard to relocation of the Chakma-Hajong refugees from Arunachal.

It may be noted that Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had denied holding any discussions on relocation of Chakma and Hajong refugees with central authorities.

“The central government has not engaged in any talks with Assam on the relocation of Chakma and Hajong refugees from Arunachal Pradesh to the state,” Sarma had claimed on Tuesday, while informing that no land was available in Assam for resettling the refugees.

 

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