Sunday, June 7, 2009

Can there by any second opinion on equality and non-discrimination?

By- Paritosh Chakma

With regard to my blog post “Say no to racism in India too” (http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/06/say-no-to-discrimination-in-india-too.html ) another reader, pseudonym as “Epistemology”, submitted a comment. He was of the view that I have a “flawed” concept about “racism” and therefore, I have mixed up “racism” with “ethnic” issues. He argued that racism and ethnicity are two separate issues. Perhaps what he meant is there are ethnic problems in the North East and these problems should not be rated as “racism”.

I find this quite interesting and worth debating. Hence, I have penned this post.

India’s north-east is “an anthropologist’s delight and an administrator’s nightmare”, notes Sanjoy Hazarika, author of several books about the region.

But I do not see any difference between racism and discrimination on the basis of ethnic differences which is also a part of the wider concept of racism as defined in Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Please see below.

EPISTEMOLOGY said...
Brilliant! A great read. What do you mean when you say "RACISM" especially in the context of North East India. Do we all have the same understanding of the concept of "racism" or "ethnic". Look, I’m not trying to claim any special political insight here. I think your argument about racism is flawed. Here, I believe you are confusing two separate issues- ethnicity and racism. Perhaps because you are too biased. (no offence o.k) *chuckle*

Why does the news media pretend that only Mizo can be racist but not the Chakma too? If so, you are already agreeing that racism aren't always the same as ethnicity, (NOT to be confused with the problems of "ethnicity" amongst ethnic minorities of North East India). I'm not saying don't compare them, just don't mistake the two as replacements for each other.

You seemed to require rather more advanced academic concepts than your "own" thought. o.k i like your outfit in this article. but i don't really like your boots.
June 7, 2009 9:22 AM

Paritosh Chakma said...
@ Epistemology: Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) of the United Nations defines the term "racial discrimination" as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”. The ICERD came into force from 4 January 1969 and India ratified it on 3 Dec 1968.

Ratification means India is legally binding to the provisions of the ICERD. But the problem with India is it has reservation to Article 1. India is not ready to accept there is any racial discrimination in the country although India recognizes “diverse origin” of its peoples and India’s “ethnic, religious, linguistic and economic diversity”. But clearly, “ethnic origin” as defined in Article 1 of ICERD is one of the grounds of racial discrimination in India.

Hence, sorry, I do not buy your argument that I am confused between the concepts of "racism" and "ethnic". There is no confusion, my friend. Just read the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) of the United Nations again.It also categorically states that “any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere”.
June 7, 2009 11:37 AM
*********


I want to add further, which I could not in the “comment” column due to lack of space.

As for his query whether Chakmas could be racist too, I believe yes, in given circumstances where they command a majority and dominate. I have already confessed this when I had said, “The people of Mizoram may contest my claim but I have seen how the socalled “vais” from Silchar and elsewhere are asked to take seat in the backside of the MST bus by the Mizos or for that matter even [by] the Chakmas in Chakma dominated areas.” But this is equally condemnable. As stated above, “any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere”.

But in the present Mizo-Chakma set up, it is the Mizos and the Mizoram government who are discriminating against the Chakmas because they (Chakmas) are the minorities and hence vulnerable.

But let us seriously debate on merit. In my post, “Reply to Henry Vangchhia” (http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/06/reply-to-henry-vangchhia.html) I have raised several issues of discrimination against Chakmas in Mizoram. I want to raise these issues again here in search of answers:

1. Various Recruitment Rules of Mizoram government departments require non-Mizos (including Chakmas) to study Mizo language subject up to at least Middle School Level (Class VII) to be eligible for jobs in Mizoram. For more details, read http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/05/outright-discrimination-against-chakmas.html

2. As a corollary to the Recruitment Rules, Chakma candidates are asked to sing Mizo songs or face harassment from Mizo officials during interview for jobs because they do not speak Mizo well. For detail see, http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/06/say-no-to-discrimination-in-india-too.html Some argue that one must know the Mizo language to serve the people better and without knowing the Mizo language how will it work? Well, just imagine how the Mizos teach the Chakma kids and work in the Chakma areas without knowing Chakma language at all? Let so it be. Having said that I reiterate here that there are larger issues involved. I do not debate the merit of the argument that Chakmas (or any other minorities) also must speak Mizo. But the real problem is many Chakma graduates after education in other states (outside Mizoram) since their childhood, return to Mizoram and learn the Mizo language. Many educated Chakma youths speak fluent Mizo but since they did not study Mizo subject in school level they do not qualify for state government jobs as per the rules laid down under various Recruitment Rules. It is easy to learn Mizo with a bit of hard work (and there is no doubt that we must learn to be efficient public servants) but you tell me, can Chakma graduates change their CLASS VII marksheets? There lies the discrimination. The Recruitment Rules are discriminatory in nature and motive.

3. Mizoram government giving Mizo names to Chakma villages. Why? It is not one off incident but there is a pattern to it. http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/05/great-game-behind-names.html

4. Mizoram government is not spending money of BADP in Chakma areas although the Chakmas are the ones who live on the line of Mizoram-Bangaldesh border. If the Mizoram government is spending the central government’s funds for BADP where are they being spent and why? Is it that the state government is not spending the money to develop the Mizoram-Bangladesh borders because these areas are inhabited by the Chakmas? See, http://chakmanews.blogspot.com/2009/05/badp-fund-misuse-will-no-go-unpunished.html

5. 50% of the total chakmas of Mizoram are getting displaced due to the India-bangladesh border fencing project. Yet, the state government says they are not displaced. Least we can accept from any government is to recognize the victims as victims. Now high ranking officials say Chakmas can’t be resettled. Why? See, http://www.zeenews.com/nation/2009-02-14/507534news.html

6. Last year, West Phaileng SDO Pu Sangthuama threatened the Chakma villagers of Khantlang under Mamit district to cut off development and pro-poor schemes if they refused to build a Church. Why? See for details, http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2008/08/silent-persecution-sdos-letter.html

7. Presently, the Forest Department is claiming Chakma village Andermanik in Mamit district as “core area” of the Dampa Tiger Reserve. The Chakmas (over 1000 persons) will be displaced with meager or little compensation - they don't really know about their fate. Several memorandums and dialogue with the officials including the District Commissioner did not help. I am told, these villagers were first displaced in early 1990s from the DTR area. I am told they received as low as Rs 600 – Rs 1000 as compensation at that time. Many did not receive any compensation at all. If they had been already displaced from the Tiger Reserve and resettled at Andermanik village by the government of Mizoram outside the Tiger Reserve how come Andermanik village falls inside the core area of the DTR?

8. The Forest Department is arbitrarily erecting “stones” inside the territory of Chakma village councils elsewhere. No body knows why? Perhaps there is a plan to declare them as bird sanctuary after a decade? Tribals often do not possess land documentation to prove their lands as their own. The Forest officials will exploit this situation in Mizoram against the Chakmas. When these “stones” erected by the Forest Departments become old the officials will claim the areas as those of the Forest Department, just like the way they are presently doing to the Chakmas villagers of Andermanik. Believe me, in Mizoram Chakmas feel that they are worth less than birds and animals. What will you call this? Don’t you see there is a pattern of violations of the rights of the people who are citizens of this country? This may not be racial discrimination, as some of you may argue as even Mizos are victims of sanctuaries and dams, but certainly no one else is being treated worse than the Chakmas in the state - with complete lack of transparency and accountability. This also constitutes violation of the fundamental right of right to life (Article 21 of the Constitution of India) which the Supreme Court enlarged to include right to food and survival.

We cannot simply dismiss these facts under the carpet believing that they are ethnic issues, not racial discrimination. We must look at the patterns. There is a pattern, and hence cannot be dismissed as incidental or accidental.

The cardinal principles of human rights are equality and non-discrimination. The civilization of a society and the democratic credentials of a government are better measured from the manner in which minorities are treated.

In the absence of any sensitivity towards the problems of the Chakmas in Mizoram – be it border fencing displacement, forest rights, right to cultivate Jhums which means livelihood, deprivation of jobs, harassment during interviews on the basis of language, harassment on the basis of religion (Khantlang issue) – the Chakmas will always look all these problems as racial discrimination/ persecution etc. If they are not, the Mizoram government and the general Mizo public, in particular the intellectuals and liberals, must come forward to resolve the problems of the Chakmas so as to give them a chance to live as equal citizens without discrimination and let them grow and prosper. Only in the prosperity of all sections of society, there can be prosperity of our Mizoram. There cannot be any other second opinion on this, I believe.

Thank you.

2 comments:

EPISTEMOLOGY said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I just finished reading your post as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The UNO paradigm is now becoming a popular trend amongst many NGOs, at least it seems to me. Is it realistic to hope for a true universal standard?

Of course, i certainly don't agree with any form of discriminations.. like those you mentioned-the Mizo against the Chakma or the Chakma against the reang or whatever. But, are all “discrimination” can be sweep neatly under the carpet of RACISM? Does discrimination exist merely on the basis of ethnicity or “caste” or “race”?

The fact is- discrimination (based on clan, region, dialect etc) exist even amongst the Mizos. Southern Mizoram critics recently pointed that “ southern Mizoram has been neglected by Mizoram government” (including Chakma MLA). As a proud resident of southern Mizoram, I have a comparable experience. Northern people have stereotypes about southern Mizoram. (e.g dialectical differences in Mizo and difference pronunciation in English.) Should I call them as being racist?. Of course I blame them for their ignorance. Have you ever heard about the Mara movement for union territory in Mizoram? Do u think these phenomenas are nothing but “racism”? I don't think so.. Who knows Chakma and Mizo could be descendant of the same race ethnically divided in recent period. Do you think Mizos need to change their attitude by saying “all Mizos are bad and all the Chakma are innocent. I think, under the surface of our skin we are all the same.

If this sounds rude I do apologize..!

If your r interested, my name is H.Vanlalhruaia, currently doing a research at University of Hyderabad or else click my name (Epistemology) and it will take you to my personal blog.

Paritosh Chakma said...

@epistemology: I thank you for your keenness to debate th issue. I too believe in fruitful debate wherein we can learn from each other and share our thoughts. Although I don’t agree with you on your elusive stand that ethnicity or caste discrimination do not come under the circumference of racism.

United Nations standards are the least we can think of to achieve peace and prosperity for the human race. They are the minimum standards, let me repeat 'minimum' standards, aspiring for world peace, equality and non-discrimination of persons based on race, ethnicity, sex, colour, nationality, religion, political belief etc.

Caste system is India’s contribution to the lexicon of racism. If caste discrimination is not a ground for racism, what is racism? Racism can have different forms and manifestations just like slavery in the modern world has acquired the form of human trafficking and bonded labour.

I am gravely sorry to say your understanding of racism is too narrow at this moment.

If the world is shrinking, we must broaden our horizon.