Chakma encroachment

Itanagar: Repeated attempts made by the Chakma refugees to allegedly occupy the ancestral land of the Mishmi community at Khatan village in Lohit district has made the All-Arunachal Pradesh Student’s Union (AAPSU) and All Mishmi Students’ Union (AMSU) question the state government’s stand on the issue.

According to the unions, the Chakmas, living in the reserved forest area along the boundary between the Lohit and Changlang districts, are constantly trying to encroach land belonging to the Khatan villagers. 

The ongoing issue took a shoddier turn on Wednesday night after the Chakmas allegedly pelted stones at Khatan village and also fired several gunshots in the air after the villagers protested their efforts to encroach their land.

AMSU president Asendo Mitti said the Chakmas are not only encroaching land, but also building several structures including monasteries on Mishmi land and blocking important paths used by the villagers.

“After the locals came to know about these developments, they complained in front of the Wakro extra assistant commissioner. Accordingly, a police team and landowners visited the area on Wednesday but they were stopped midway by the Chakmas. They were carrying weapons and were in a large number so the police had to fall back,” Mitti said. 

The AMSU president said the disagreement did not end there as the Chakmas came to Khatan village later in the night and intimidated the villagers.

“They also pelted stones and fired several shots in the air before leaving for the village,” Mitti said while adding that several members of the AMSU have been deployed at Khatan to protect the villagers.

Khatan village which falls in the Wakro circle of Lohit district has around 30 households.

Mitti said the land grabbing issue is not new, however, such incidents have gained momentum after the Mishmi and Singpo communities unanimously decided to demarcate a boundary along with the Khatan village in a traditional way.

The decision to demarcate the boundaries was taken around 2 months ago and since then encroachment activities have crossed all limits.

“The Chakmas are of the argument that they were not involved in the demarcation process. What we don’t understand is why would we involve the refugees while making decisions on our land,” said Mitti.

The student leader said the people are still ok if the Chakmas live in the areas allotted to them but constant attempts to grab the land and intimidate the villagers will not be tolerated.  

Mitti said several representations have been submitted to the state government in this regard but the same have always fallen on deaf ears.

“When we protest the government sends police troops which stay for a week and leave. The encroachment cycle begins again after that. But this time we want a clear and final stand from the government. We want to know if the government favours its indigenous population or the refugees,” Mitti said.

AAPSU general secretary Tobom Dai said, “the attempt to grab the ancestral land of the Mishmi community is an ample reflection of the blatant disregard for the law of land and customary practices of the state’s people by the illegal Chakma settlers.”  

The Chakmas have created mayhem by their act of threat and intimidation to the innocent villagers of Khatan by firing upon them yesterday, Dai said, calling upon the state government and district administration concerned to view the matter seriously and arrest all those involved in the incident.

Dai said the land grab attempt made by the Chakmas is the result of a non-serious attitude and lack of long-term vision by the people at the helm of affairs that such incidents are rearing their ugly head again.

The state government should immediately send a high-level ministerial team to the affected area to ascertain the facts. The AAPSU will not remain a mute spectator in case the state government fails to book the culprits involved in the land grabbing and firing incident, Dai said.

The union will also visit the affected area to see for itself the ground reality, Dai added.

The Chakmas, originally residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of former East Pakistan, had to flee when their land was submerged by the Kaptai dam project in the 1960s.

The groups entered India through what was then the Lushai Hills district of Assam (today’s Mizoram). While some stayed back with Chakmas already living in the Lushai Hills, the Indian government moved a majority of the refugees to present-day Arunachal Pradesh.

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