With respect to my blog post "Say no to discrimination in India too" (http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/06/say-no-to-discrimination-in-india-too.html), a reader submitted a comment. I thank him for his concerns. I wanted to clarify things including what I have written in the piece; hence, I wanted to write longer response. But there I found lack of space and I can't add hyperlinks in the "comment" column. Hence, I chose to reply here.
My name is Henry Vangchhia. I use to live in Chawngte "C" in the 80's. I have many Chakma friends and know a lot of them. I don't know why and how you came up with discrimination... when everybody knows so well there is nothing as such. What the people of Mizoram does not like and hate is you people (The Chakmas) harboring Illegal Chakmas from Bangladesh... your people have tried to deny this always, but we all know the fact.
June 4, 2009 8:02 PM
Below is my reply:
Dear Henry Vangchhia,
I am happy to get your feedback. Thank you for sharing your concerns.
I am equally surprised by your denial and accusations. Let me reply to you.
First, all Chakmas of Mizoram do not live inside the CADC. Almost half of the Chakma population lives in areas falling outside the CADC, and they face most discrimination. If you have time, please visit these areas too. Go with open heart and then, you will find what ail Mizoram government’s policies and the policies of the government of India towards the poor and the minorities. I am sure a large section of Mizos too are poor and do not have basic facilities in independent India but you must apply your keenness to read the pattern of discrimination agaistn the Chakmas.
Second, as for your query “why and how you came up with discrimination (against Chakmas in Mizoram)”, I would like to say that I did not come up with allegations. These are facts. I have also given one factual example in this post (Chakma candidates requiring to sing Mizo songs or face harassment from Mizo officials during interview for jobs). Is this not discrimination on the basis of race? Please read my post again, if time permits you, for further clarification.
Please read, http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/05/great-game-behind-names.html to know further how Mizoram government has been trying to impose Mizo names by changing Chakma names of villages. Read between the lines and say honestly what do you see or learn? What if the Assam government tried to change Mizo names into Assamese or Hindi or Bengali when Mizoram was under the administration of Assam or a UT – wouldn’t you call that discrimination? Being a good Mizo, you would have shouted and yelled just like me.
During the great famine (which gave birth to MNF underground movement), the Mizos were almost let to die by the government of India as help was not coming in. That was discrimination and neglect. In similar terms, today Mizoram government is not implementing the Border Area Development Programmes in the Chakma inhabited areas of India-Bangladesh. In fact, if you go to these border areas, you will find Chakmas live on the line of the border and hence they should have been given priority as per the guidelines of the BADP issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The state government says it is spending hundreds of millions of rupees given by the centre but if it is so, why is it not spending the money to develop the Chakma areas on the border? Isn’t that discrimination, then?
Third, isn’t requirement of 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 not discrimination? I have given examples of the some of the Recruitment Rules which say this. For more details, read http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/05/outright-discrimination-against-chakmas.html
Fourth, 50% of the total chakmas of Mizoram are getting displaced due to the India-bangladesh border fencing project. All their lands, houses and other properties have been acquired by the government under Land Acquisition Act of 1894. But yet the state government of Mizoram does NOT recognize them as “displaced”. This was stated by the state's Home Department. See, "Chakma fencing victims not displaced: Mizoram govt", Merinews.com, http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=15710225 . What do you call this attitude of the Mizoram government? The future of 50% of the total chakmas of Mizoram is at stake and yet the state of Mizoram is not taking care of them. For further details, read http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/06/let-chakmas-live-in-peace-give-them.html . Is it not similar to the great famine of late 1950s faced by the Mizos when the centre simply ignored them (Mizos)? If 1950s was a discrimination for the Mizos, why not this for the Chakmas? Certainly, educated Chakmas like me will see it as discrimination.
Fifth, to give you a direct form of discrimination, let me say that on 24 May last year (2008) the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) of West Phaileng, Pu Sangthuama dashed off a letter warning the Chakma villagers of Khantlang under Mamit district to deny them any development aids or schemes if they did not provide land to build a Church (Presbyterian) in the village. Do you know what it means to deny development schemes to the poor villagers on the ground of religion or caste? It means denial of basic primary edcuation, rural jobs under NREGS, rural health, BADP development, etc and such threat contributes to feeling of insecurity in the minds of the minorities and lack of faith in our bureaucracy, and in turn in our government. In plain language it is racial discrimination, an illegal act and punishable under the law. Such threats by a civil servant to stop all welfare schemes and pro-poor programmes to the Chakma villagers is the height of abuse of democracy and rule of law in the state of Mizoram. It tells more tales than what we can see through our naked eyes.
As for your allegation that Chakmas harbour illegal Chakmas from Bangladesh, I want to say this to you. Prior to 1997 CHT Peace Accord in Bangladesh, there was conflict and insecurity in that country and hence it could be possible that some Chakmas fled and crossed the border. I do not know for sure whether any of them settled permanently in Mizoram. But after peace accord was signed, the government of Bangladesh accepted the Chakma refugees from Tripura and elsewhere. I do not think after 1997, any Chakma entered into Mizoram illegally to settle down because there is no prospect in terms of economic development and livelihood even for the Mizoram Chakmas living on the border. They continue to live wretched lives. Certainly, Bangladesh Chakmas won’t settle down in Mizo areas.
Second, even Mizos (of different sub groups) allegedly came and settled down in various parts of Mizoram from Bangladesh and Myanmar. However, whether they are Chakmas or Mizos, all whoever enter our country illegally should be dealt with by the law. Hence, the India-bangaldesh border fencing is being built. Chakmas are totally opposed to any kind of illegal infiltration from Bangladesh and hence they have not opposed this fencing at all.
The conclusion is: victims always cry for justice but the dominant groups often deny allegations of discrimination/persecution. Take for example, Tibetans in China, Chakmas in CHT, Bangladesh, Tribals and Dalits in India, Muslim religious group in India. Mizos too had cried for justice and violently fought for a separate state. The government of India had always denied that there was any kind of discrimination against Mizos and bombed Aizol. That was the only incident of air attack in the history of India carried out against own insurgents.
To live in a better society, we have to respect the diversity of the society. Mizoram is not a homogenous society. It is heterogeneous - comprising of various cultures, languages, religions and ethnic groups. If Mizoram wants to grow and achieve development, peace, and prosperity, the state government must work for all sections of people and try to address their problems. Mizos and Mizoram government must patiently hear what the minorities such as the Chakmas or Reangs or Hmars or Lais or Maras have to say, and investigate properly into these problems to understand the problems with a view to solving them for the larger good.
The first step would be to accept the prevailing culture of discrimination against minorities in Mizoram, in various forms and manifestations, some of which I have plainly mentioned in my blog. If doctors do not want to see or acknowledge/identify the symptoms of the disease, how can they treat the patient?
We together - Mizos, Chakmas and others - will have to build Mizoram. We cannot let Mizoram develop in parts; it has to develop in whole.