By - Paritosh Chakma
That the Chakmas have been victims of state sponsored policy of silent persecution in the state of Mizoram is beyond doubt. They have been victims of the state’s “exclusionist” structure and system which excludes the minority sections from development and enjoyment of human rights. The Chakmas like other minority communities are treated like second class citizens.
The exclusion of all Chakmas, primarily living outside the Chakma Autonomous District Council, from mainstream development process has been highlighted time and again by me in this blog.
The Chakmas face all these injustices silently because they are incapable of lodging protest against the system dominated by the majority from head to toe due to fear of reprisals from the system. Yet, this is not to suggest that all the people in the administration are bad.
Another reason is that in the case of the Chakmas the persecution is more through denial of economic and social progress and less of physical atrocities. Hence, there are little proofs. Yet, the backwardness and the helplessness of the Chakmas in the state are all pervasive.
But of late, there have been some tangible proofs.
On 24 May 2008, the Sub Divisional Officer (Civil) of West Phaileng, Mr Sangthuama dashed off a threatening letter (he is only too stupid to do so) to the Village Council President (VCP) of Khantlang village under Mamit district. Khantlang is a Chakma village and the VCP too belongs to the Chakma community.
In Mizoram, the Chakmas whose population is about 100,000 are a minority community.
It so happened that the villagers of Khantlang rightly refused to freely allot any land to the Presbyterian Church, whose sole motive for extending its wings in the Chakma village is to convert the Buddhist Chakmas into Christianity. Surely, in this secular democratic India, the minority Chakmas do have the basic right to have a say on their community properties, including land and hence, they may decide not to allot (why should they freely allot any land to any body?) land to any one.
The SDO’s letter follows this.
In his letter, the SDO has stated that he was writing as per the direction of the Deputy Commissioner of Mamit district and has categorically threatened to stop all welfare facilities/schemes enjoyed by the Chakma villagers of Khantlang! The DC’s complicity in the use of coercion is clear.
Surprisingly, the SDO has invoked the secular principle of the Constitution to justify his threats saying that the VCP must not discriminate against Christians. Truly, there should be no discrimination on the basis of religion and caste. But discrimination is all that has been happening against the Buddhist Chakmas in Christian dominated Mizoram.
The Deputy Commissioner and the SDO have misused their good offices, powers and position to harass and threaten an elected representative (VCP) solely because he belongs to Chakma community and he dared to stand firm for defending the rights of his community.
The threat of the SDO to stop all welfare schemes and pro-poor programmes to the Chakma villagers of Khantlang is the height of abuse of democracy and rule of law in the state of Mizoram. The letter bears testimony to the silent persecution faced by the Chakmas in Mizoram. It equally exposes the fundamentalist and communal attitudes of some civil servants in the state.
When the minority people do not have a right of say in matters relating to their land and properties, culture and religion, there does not seem to be there an iota of democracy and freedom in this part of the country. The SDO thinks a threatening letter is all that it takes to forcibly grab a piece of land from the minority community in Mizoram.
May be the Chakmas will prove him wrong this time.