At least eight NGOs on Tuesday moved to Union Home Ministry seeking further amendment of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 to give citizenship to over 1.2 lakh Chin refugees from Myanmar, who are now living in India.
Many Chins, an ethnic tribe in Myanmar, had fled the neighbouring country following ethnic conflicts and settled mainly in Mizoram and Manipur.
The appeal comes at a time most organisations in the Northeast are up against the bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8 and is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
Organisations representing the majority Mizos are demanding the withdrawal of the bill stating that it would allow over 1.2 lakh Chakma refugees from Bangladesh living in Mizoram get Indian citizenship.
The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955, in order to allow the ‘persecuted minorities’ from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan such as Hindus, Christian, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Sikhs, who settled before December 2014, to apply for Indian citizenship. Many organisations in the Northeast are against the bill fearing that it would threaten their ethnic identity.
The memorandum submitted by at eight Chakma organisations urged the Centre to further amend the bill in the Budget session, starting on January 31, to grant citizenship to the Chin refugees.
“The number of Chin refugees in India have become at least over 1.2 lakhs over the years. Further, in November 2017, about 1,600 Chins, many of whom were women and children, fled to Lawngtlai district of Mizoram following a military offensive against the Arakan Army militants in Myanmar’s Chin state. While some have returned home, around 1,440 refugees have reportedly refused to return due to insecurity,” said a statement issued by Dilip Kanti Chakma, president of the All India Chakma Students Union.
About 4,000 Chin refugees are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in New Delhi. In June 2018, the UN agency decided to cancel the “refugee status” of the Chin refugees with effect from 1 August 2018 and that the “cessation process” would end on December 31 this year on the ground that Myanmar has now become “stable and secure” for them to return home and, therefore, they don’t need “international protection, the statement said.
The Joint Parliament Committee, set up by the NDA government to discuss the bill, however, suggested against the inclusion of the minorities from Myanmar and Sri Lanka, while approving the same for those from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
“Some NGOs of Mizoram have been unnecessarily targeting the Chakmas who are indigenous to Mizoram, have an Autonomous District Council under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India and never raised the issue of the Chin refugees,” the statement’s said. The statement was issued by Rashtriya Chakma Tribal Sangh, All India Chakma Students Union, All India Chakma Social Forum, Mizoram Chakma Students Union and Guwahati Chakma Students Union, Barak.