The International Observatory on Statelessness


Certain groups in India grapple with statelessness, or the risk of it, though exact numbers are not known. These groups include Chakmas and Hajongs, as well as Punjabis and other groups affected by the 1947 partition which split India and Pakistan into two separate countries.

About 30,000 Chakmas and Hajongs from the Chittagong Hill Tracts of the area known as East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) migrated to India and settled in Aruanchal Pradesh. Children of these migrants have not been granted the right to nationality. Now numbering some 65,000, many Chakmas have the right to citizenship and to vote, but the government has systematically denied them access to social, economic, and political rights to which they are entitled.

Some 20,000 Hindu families from Pakistan who went to the Indian side after the 1947 partition riots are still stateless. India has reportedly amended its Citizenship Act of 1955 and Citizen Rule of 1965 authorizing the district magistrate of Jaisalmer to grant Indian citizenship to Pakistanis who have been living in the border district for the last five years. These individuals may acquire citizenship soon. In addition, over a hundred thousand Punjabi refugees fled to Jammu and Kashmir from neighboring Sialkot district of Punjab province (now in Pakistan) in 1947 during the partition. Until now, they have not been granted citizenship. The descendents of these stateless people continue to be denied nationality.

Finally, an amendment to India’s nationality law in 2003 provides that children born to an Indian parent in India with one foreign “illegal” parent will not receive citizenship, increasing the risk of statelessness.

(See also India).