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Who are Chakmas and Hajongs?

Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Who are Chakmas and Hajongs?

What to study?

For Prelims: Who are they? Where do they live?

For Mains: Challenges faced by these communities and ways to address them.

Context: Human rights body – Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) – has sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention alleging that the Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh are facing hunger and starvation as they were not included in the government’s economic package.

What’s the issue?

The state government announced the economic package for vulnerable sections in these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic, among others, to provide 5 kg rice and 1 kg pulses per head to beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Yojana.

  • But, Chakmas and Hajongs do not have ration cards as the state government had seized those through an order on October 25, 1991. Hence, the two communities have been forced to buy rice at a higher price.
  • About 33% or 22,000 of the 65,875 Chakmas and Hajongs are children. Hunger and starvation have engulfed them because of the violation of the right to food during the pandemic.
  • And, the denial of food is being seen as a violation of the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Who are they?

Chakmas and Hajongs were originally residents of Chittagong Hill Tracts in the erstwhile East Pakistan. They left their homeland when it was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s.

The Chakmas, who are Buddhists, and the Hajongs, who are Hindus, also allegedly faced religious persecution and entered India through the then Lushai Hills district of Assam (now Mizoram). The Centre moved the majority of them to the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which is now Arunachal Pradesh.

Their numbers have gone up from about 5,000 in 1964-69 to one lakh. At present, they don’t have citizenship and land rights but are provided basic amenities by the state government.

Sources: the Hindu.