Grant citizenship rights to Chakmas, Hajongs in Arunachal, says SC

New Delhi, Sep 17 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the central and Arunachal Pradesh governments to confer the citizenship rights on the “eligible” Chakmas and Hajong people coupled with steps to protect their lives and liberty and guard them against any discrimination.

Allowing the petition by the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas (CCRC) of Arunachal Pradesh, a bench of Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel in their judgment said: “We direct the government of India and the state of Arunachal Pradesh to finalise the conferment of citizenship rights on eligible Chakmas and Hajongs.”

Directing the compliance of its direction within three months from Thursday, the court also directed both governments to “ensure compliance of directions a for protection of their life and liberty and against their discrimination in any manner.”

The court said that the exercise for the grant of citizenship to Chakmas and Hajongs people may be “completed at the earliest preferably within three months from today”.

Stating that it found merit in the contention of the petitioner CCRC, Justice Goel, pronouncing the judgment, said: “It stands acknowledged by this court on the basis of stand of the government of India that the Chakmas have a right to be granted citizenship subject to the procedure being followed.”

“It also stands recognized by judicial decisions that they cannot be required to obtain any Inner Line permit as they are settled in the state of Arunachal Pradesh”, the court said.

Referring to history to drive the point that Arunachal Pradesh was an integral part of India since ancient times, the court said that was “well known that the Chakmas and Hajongs were displaced from the area which became part of East Pakistan (now in Bangladesh) on construction of Kaptai Dam and were allowed to be rehabilitated under the decision of the government of India.”

Referring to the earlier decisions of the apex court, Delhi and Gauhati High Court, the judgment said, “they need to be protected and their claims of citizenship need to be considered as per applicable procedure”.

It further said that “they could not be discriminated against in any manner pending formal conferment of rights of citizenship. Their status also stands duly a acknowledged in the guidelines of the Election Commission of India”.

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