Racial Profiling of the Chakmas and Hajongs

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    In News

    • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Arunachal Pradesh government to submit an action taken report against the racial profiling and relocation of people belonging to the Chakma and Hajong communities.

    Background

    • The north-eastern States have had a history of being paranoid about outsiders outnumbering the indigenous communities and taking their land, resources and jobs.
    • The threat from “non-locals” in a specific area has also been perceived to be from communities indigenous elsewhere in the region.
    • This has often led to conflicts such as the recent attacks on non-tribal people in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong or an Assam-based group’s warning to a fuel station owner in Guwahati against employing Bihari workers.
    • In Arunachal Pradesh: the Chakma and Hajong people are feeling the heat since the State government decided to conduct a special census in 2021.

    Who are the Chakmas and Hajongs?

    • Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh: They are migrants from the Chittagong Hill Tracts of erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
    • Population: Mizoram and Tripura have a sizable population of the Buddhist Chakmas while the Hindu Hajongs mostly inhabit the Garo Hills of Meghalaya and adjoining areas of Assam.
    • Displaced by the Kaptai dam on the Karnaphuli River in the 1960s: They sought asylum in India and were settled in relief camps in the southern and south-eastern parts of Arunachal Pradesh from 1964 to 1969.
      • A majority of them live in the Changlang district of the State today.
    • Rehabilitation plan: Members of the two communities had been settled in Arunachal Pradesh six decades ago with a rehabilitation plan, allotted land and provided with financial aid depending on the size of their families.

     Why was a special census of the two communities planned?

    • Violated Article 14 and Article 1: The census was nothing but racial profiling of the two communities because of their ethnic origin and violated Article 14 of the Constitution of India and Article 1 of the International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination ratified by India.

    Issues

    • The Centre did not consult the local communities: before settling the Chakma-Hajongs and that the State has been carrying their “burden” for too long.
    • Victims: Members of the two communities have allegedly been victims of hate crime, police atrocities and denial of rights and beneficiary programmes.
    • Organizations of the migrants said the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019: which amended two sections of the 1955 Act, has nothing to do with the Chakma-Hajongs since they were permanently settled by the Union of India in the 1960s.
    • Inner Line Permit does not apply to them: Since 95% of the migrants were born in the North-East Frontier Agency or Arunachal Pradesh, the Inner Line Permit mandatory under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873 for outsiders seeking to visit the State, also does not apply to them.

    Way Forward

    • The Supreme Court had in January 1996 prohibited: any move to evict or expel the Chakma-Hajongs and directed the Central and State governments to process their citizenship.
      • However, not a single application has been processed as on date.
      • It was also pointed out that Arunachal Pradesh cannot expect other States to share its burden of migrants.
    • Solution to the decades-old issue: lies in the State respecting the rule of law and the judgements of the Supreme Court. There has to be an end to politicians and political aspirants deriving mileage from the Chakma-Hajong issue.

    What is Racial Profiling?

    • Racial profiling is the act of suspecting, targeting or discriminating against a person on the basis of their ethnicity or religion, rather than on individual suspicion.
    • Racial profiling often involves discrimination against minority populations and builds on any negative stereotypes of the targeted demographic.
    • Racial profiling, however, is not limited only to an individual’s ethnicity, race or religion and can also be based on the individual’s nationality.

    Source: TH