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Dont give PRC to NON-APST in Arunachal Pradesh!

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Joken Ete


Come January 2019, the state government will be issuing Permanent Resident Certificates (PRC) to members of the Ahom, Adivasi, Kachari, Moran, Deori, Sonowal and Missing communities living in Changlang and Namsai districts.
On December 7, the chief minister said ‘the PRC issue cannot be kept pending for long and brushed aside.’ He said it is the responsibility of the government to solve the issue once and for all as it has the potential to disturb peace and harmony.
The following day, the chief minister made the big announcement, saying the state government is positively considering the long pending demands of the non-APSTs permanently residing in the two districts. He maintained that the interests of the indigenous tribal population would be taken care of and cut-off dates would be set to qualify for obtaining PRCs.

Although Khandu said the state government would bring the issue before the cabinet for discussion, it seems obvious that the state government has made up its mind. In his announcement, the chief minister also said that the government would frame a proper guideline before arriving at a final decision.

It is understood that the non-APSTs and their offspring face multifaceted impacts, including in pursuing higher education in and outside the country, as the lack of PRC has deprived the non-APST Arunachalees and their offspring’s basic rights. The lack of residential identification also means that they face rejection not only in getting employment/job opportunities in state and central government services but also in sitting for competitive examinations, including the UPSC, not to mention while going on journeys to other parts of the state and the country.

However, the fears expressed by various indigenous community-based organizations, student bodies and individuals are not out of place, as the problems the granting of PRC to non-APSTs can cause can also be multifold.
First, the local Singphos, numbering around 6000, would be completely wiped out. Second, it will result in influx of thousands of kith and kin of the communities from neighbouring Assam. Third, the influx will result in massive law and order headache for the administrations of the two districts.

Understandably, the unilateral decision of the state government has not gone done well with the Arunachal Pradesh Abotani Community Confederation and the apex students’ body of the state, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU), who are objecting to the latest decision. They have accused the government of taking the decision in haste.

Their contention is not unfounded, as the meeting between the chief minister and representatives of CBOs was originally scheduled for the evening of December 8. However, without sending fresh circulars, the meeting was pre-poned to December 7. This left many organizations unrepresented at the meeting.
“Initially, I was invited to the meeting. Since the meeting was pre-poned, I could not attend,” said a source on condition of anonymity.

When contacted, AAPSU general secretary Tobom Dai said, “A Joint High-Power Committee (JHPC) comprising all political parties in the state, AAPSU and other stakeholders, headed by Environment and Forests minister Nabam Rebia, is looking into the issue. A unilateral announcement for conferment of PRC without waiting for the JHPC report is unfortunate and unwarranted.”

He said the ‘New Year’ gift announcement has the potential to derail the whole process and the hard work put in by the committee.
“It is always better if consensus is drawn without bulldozing things to achieve a tangible outcome,” Dai added.

A source who didn’t want to be identified said the decision is just an attempt to increase vote-bank politics with the general and state assembly elections due in May-June 2019.
“The recent announcement by the chief minister to grant PRCs to some communities in Namsai district bears political undertones,” Rajiv Gandhi University associate professor Dr Nani Bath said.

Saying that the communities settled in our state since the creation of Arunachal Pradesh have to be granted PRC today or in the future, Dr Bath added that “we have to have a workable framework before such exercises are undertaken.”
He said the design of the framework must be left to expert hands.
“Political interference would only complicate the matter,” Dr Bath pointed out.
Even before the big announcement, it is learnt that on December 3 last deputy chief minister Chowna Mein, who also represents Lekang assembly constituency, where most of the communities reside, had a meeting with the representatives of the communities.

According to sources, Mein had assured that their demand for PRC would be looked into positively by the state government.
All said and done, this is not the first time that the chief minister has found himself on the wrong side of the fence.
In June this year, the chief minister announced that the Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act or the Anti-Conversion Law, which was passed by the State Assembly in 1978, would be repealed.
Perhaps the person who holds the top office in the state should exercise extreme caution while taking decisions that have mixed potentials.

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