Thursday, August 13, 2009

Will the Chakmas survive in Mizoram? (Section I)

By: Paritosh Chakma

[In this article, Paritosh Chakma critically examines the position of the Chakmas of Mizoram – their social, economic conditions and political status. He delves into the tragic fate the Chakmas faced during Partition of India in 1947 and traces the struggles of this microscopic ethnic community since then, leading finally to the primary question – “Will the Chakmas survive in Mizoram"]

Introduction:

“What future do the Chakmas hold in Mizoram?” “Will they manage to survive and if yes, what will be their socio-economic and political conditions?”

Being a Chakma myself these questions are very dear to my heart. And, as human beings all of us should also be asking these questions after reading carefully about their pitiful plight in the tiny state of Mizoram in North East India.

I pose these two questions at this crucial juncture because I feel to explore the possibilities as to what the Chakmas, who are a minority, acutely impoverished, disadvantaged, discriminated, and marginalized in Mizoram, should do for themselves and more importantly, what are the measures the state government of Mizoram and the government of India should take – both short term and long term measures – to ensure equitable development and their existence in this world with all dignity a human person is entitled to under civilized laws, norms and customs.

Part I

How Chakmas lost a ‘homeland’:

Firstly, let me give a brief account of the modern history of the Chakmas. Let me begin by saying that Chakmas were proud citizens of undivided India. Their kings and queens fought against the Mughal invaders and the British Raj to protect the sanctity of their territory and for that matter, to protect India’s freedom and honour.

It is important to go back to history because had Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) been made a part of India in August 1947, as demanded by the Chakmas, their situation would have been completely different now. CHT would have been one of the biggest states of India and the Chakmas would have ruled their own destiny by themselves. But that did not happen, however.

During the 1947 Partition their homeland - the Chittagong Hill Tracts - was in the cruelest manner “awarded” to Pakistan although the Chakma and other ethnic tribes constituted 97% of the CHT's population. Muslims were only 3%. Chakma leaders passionately appealed to the India leaders and before the Bengal Boundary Commission headed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British judge, to remain with India. Radcliffe did not hear them. Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy, cheated them. And, great leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi did not keep their words. Sneha Kumar Chakma being a co-opted member in the Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than Assam) Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly of India did not help much.

There is enough evidence to establish that Radcliffe submitted his report to Mountbatten on 12 August 1947, but Mountbatten was ill-advised that if the Congress leaders come to know CHT has been allotted to Pakistan they would launch vehement protests and the grand ceremony of India’s freedom on 15 August 1947 would be in disarray. So Mountbatten concealed the Radcliffe Award to himself and his close confidants like V P Menon, his Reforms Commissioner. In fact, if Mountbatten is to be believed, it was V P Menon who suggested him against making public the Radcliffe's report before Partition. Thus, India and Pakistan celebrated their independence without knowing their national territories. On the dawn of 15 August 1947, like any other free Indians, the Chakmas too celebrated their freedom by unfurling the Indian tricolour at Rangamati (now in Bangladesh). The Marmas, the second largest ethnic group in CHT, raised the Burmese flag at Bandarban on the same day.

The Chakmas’ celebration of India’s independence was official. On the midnight of 14 and 15 August 1947, about then thousand people marched to the residence of the Deputy Commissioner Col. G.L. Hyde at Rangamati. The Deputy Commissioner gave them a warm reception.

"Sir, is not India independent now"?
"Yes, you are independent now and on".

"Is not, Sir, CHT a part of India under the Independence Act of
India"?

"Yes, according to the Independence Act of India 1947
Chittagong Hill Tracts is a territory of Indian dominion".

"So, should we not hoist our national flag"?

"Yes, but we the British people generally hoist flags at sunrise. Please come at dawn and hoist the Indian national flag publicly in the football ground, and I will go and salute it. Thereafter I shall flourish the Indian flag in my office and residence where I invite you all. Please come here to attend my flag hoisting ceremony."

At sunrise on 15th August 1947, Sneha Kumar Chakma hoisted the Indian tricolor at an official function graced by the Deputy Commissioner Col. G.L. Hyde at Rangamati. Congratulatory messages were sent out and Chakmas and other tribal people celebrated their freedom. They were not given to know that they had been dumped to Pakistan much against their own will and aspirations.

After the bonhomie was over, Lord Mountbatten placed the Radcliffe Award and announcement was made on the All India Radio on 17 August 1947. The Chakmas and other ethnic tribes were struck by lightning to hear the news. On 21 August 1947, the Pakistan Army marched to Rangamati and pulled down the Indian flag and hoisted the Pakistani flag. Crackdown against Chakma leaders was launched. Chakma leaders convened emergency meeting and resolved to oppose the Radcliffe Award tooth and nail and to provide armed resistance if necessary. Sneha Kumar Chakma escaped to India and sought help from Patel and Nehru. Patel was willing to provide even military assistance but he said he was only “deputy” to Prime Minister Nehru.

It took Sneha Kumar Chakma fifty days to get an appointment with Prime Minister Nehru in his office in Delhi. He told Pandit Nehru that the people of CHT were ready to resist the “award” of CHT to Pakistan - they were ready to fight and India must help them. But the great Nehru forgot his promise and backed out. Perhaps, for him, as was for Mountbatten, the future of the indigenous peoples of CHT, was a “small” issue. In the words of Sneha Kumar Chakma, Nehru got up in anger and shouted – “Do you propose to bring India again under foreign rule?”[1]

Part II

Persecution under Pakistani Rule

As the CHT was unjustly “awarded” to Pakistan by Radcliffe’s Award, the Pandora’s Box opened and it has been an unending saga of sufferings for the Chakmas and other ethnic groups of CHT. Of a dozen of ethnic tribal groups living in CHT, the Buddhist Chakmas are numerically dominant and hence their sufferings are more visible. The other ethnic groups in CHT are Marma, Tripura, Tonchungya, Chak, Pankho, Mru, Murung, Bawm, Lushai, Khyang, and Khumi.

The CHT’s indigenous peoples had no faith in Pakistan’s secularism although Muslim League leaders assured that minorities would be protected. Days after the Partition, a large group of Chakmas crossed over into India fearing for their lives in Pakistan.

Under the British rule, CHT enjoyed relative “sovereignty” as the British role was mainly limited to collection of annual tax in cotton or in cash. In the words of Mr. Halbed, Commissioner of Chittagong (1829): “The hill tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are not British subjects, but merely tributaries, and we have no rights on our part to interfere with their internal arrangements”. In 1900, the British enacted the CHT Regulation Act 1900 (popularly known as the CHT Manual) to declare CHT as a “special area”. Subsequently, the Government of India Act 1935 designated the CHT as a “Totally Excluded Area” and restricted settlement of peoples from outside of the region.[2]

The first Constitution of Pakistan (1956) recognized the CHT region as “special area”. But in 1964, its special autonomous status was revoked and the region was opened up to economic exploitation. The influx of Bengali settlers formed a part of State Policy.

Most of the years of Pakistan’s independence up to 1971 (when Bangladesh was liberated) were spent under Martial Law where there was no rule of law. The rights of the indigenous peoples of CHT was severely curtailed and violated. They had no democratic space to raise their legitimate concerns.

In 1962, a large hydro-electric dam known as Kaptai dam was built over Karnaphuli river near Rangamati which submerged 40% of CHT’s agricultural lands belonging to the indigenous peoples. At least 54,000 acres of settled cultivable land, mostly belonging to Chakma farmers were lost in 1957 when the government acquired land for the construction of the dam. Some 18,000 families consisting of about 100,000 people lost their homes and prime agricultural lands. Of them, over 40,000 Chakma tribals crossed the border into India. The Chakmas call this event “Bor Parang” (the great exodus).[3] About 60,000 Chakmas and Hajongs are presently seeking citizenship rights in Arunachal Pradesh in India where they had been settled by the government of India after they fled East Pakistan.

Part III:

Chakmas under Bangladesh regime: Attempts at annihilation

This section provides a brief note on the situation of the Chakmas in Bangladesh, which emerged as a sovereign country, with India’s direct help, in 1971 following a nine month liberation war.

After the withdrawal of Pakistani army the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Forces of Bangladesh) began to unleash terror on the indigenous Jummas[4] in CHT. On 15 February 1972, a delegation of the Jumma people led by M.N. Larma (Chakma) submitted a four-point charter of demand[5] to Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which were rejected outright. The Jummas under the leadership of Mr Larma launched a political outfit, the Parbattya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (Chittagong Hill Tribal People's Coordination Association) to protest oppression and later waged a guerilla war against the state since mid-1970s to demand the right to self-determination. The Bangladesh regime responded with bullets, massacres; and in particular, used rape of indigenous women as a weapon of war. Since 1980 there have been 13 major massacres of the Jummas by the Bangladeshi settlers and the Bangladeshi security personnel. These are: Kaukhali-Kalampati Massacre of 25 March 1980 (300 Jummas killed), Banraibari-Beltali-Belchari Massacre of 26 June 1981 (hundreds killed), Telafang-Ashalong-Tabalchari Massacre of 19 September 1981 (hundreds killed), Golakpatimachara-Machyachara-Tarabanchari Massacre of June-August 1983 (800 Jummas killed), Bhusanchara Massacre of 31 May 1984 (at least 400 Jummas were killed and many women were gang raped), Panchari Massacre of 1 May 1986, Matiranga Massacre of May 1986 (at least 70 Jummas killed), Comillatilla, Taindong Massacre of 18-19 May 1986, Hirarchar, Sarbotali, Khagrachari, Pablakhali Massacres of 8-10 August, 1988, Langadu Massacre of 4 May 1989 (40 Jummas killed), Malya Massacre of 2 February 1992 (30 Jummas killed), Logang Massacre of 10 April 1992 (400 Jummas killed) and Naniachar Massacre of 17 November 1993 (about 100 Jummas killed).[6] No one was ever prosecuted for any of these acts of genocide.

The root of the CHTs crisis lies in the policies of the government of Bangladesh which seek to establish homogenous Bengali Muslim society. Hence, the response of Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman to Chakmas’ demand for autonomy was - “If you wish to stay in Bangladesh forget your ethnic identity and live as a Bengali”. This implies the destruction of the identity of the indigenous Jumma peoples. The successive governments at Dhaka stuck to this policy throughout. Since late 1970s, the government of Bangladesh sponsored a migration of plain Muslim setters into CHT in blatant violation of the CHT Regulation, 1900 for political purpose. Between 1978 and 1984, the government of Bangladesh reportedly transferred half a million poor Bangaldeshi settlers to CHT and provided them free ration, housing, protection and assistance to grab indigenous peoples’ lands to sustain the conflict and to annihilate the indigenous peoples.[7] Today, as a result of the aggressive settlement policy, the Chittagong Hill Tracts has a population which is almost evenly divided between Muslim homesteaders and the indigenous Jummas. As per the 1991 census, out of total 9,74,447 population of CHT, 5,01,114 were tribals (51.4%) and 47,3333 non-tribals i.e. Bengali Muslims (48.5%)![8] In 1947, the non-tribals constitued only about 3% in the CHT.

On 2 December 1997, the government of Bangladesh and the Jummas signed the CHT Peace Accord which ended the tribal insurgency, but the Bangladesh government has refused to fully implement the Peace Accord. For example, thousands of refugees who returned from India as per the agreement have not been resettled. In short, Bangladesh's policy towards the indigenous peoples is: "We want the land but not the indigenous peoples". The attacks continued with impunity. On 20 April 2008, hundreds of illegal plain settlers backed by Bangladesh army attacked seven indigenous Jumma villages and burnt down at least 77 houses of indigenous Jumma peoples and a church and two UNICEF run schools in Sajek area under Rangamati district (see a report: http://www.aitpn.org/Reports/Bangladesh-Sajek.pdf). The situation of the indigenous Jummas remains precarious.

Part IV:

Chakmas in Mizoram – Many myths to be broken

Myths are no realities; there is wide gap between them. We must spot the gap. There are several misunderstandings about the Chakmas or lack of proper understanding about their situation in Mizoram. In this Chapter, I intend to break some of these myths concerning the Chakmas.

Myth # 1: Chakmas are not sons of the soil in Mizoram

Many scholars while dealing with the Chakmas of Mizoram have stated, without much credible research done, that Chakmas are “recent immigrants” to Mizoram. Such claims provide the impression that the Chakma tribe did not have roots in Mizoram and hence, they are not the “sons of the soil” in Mizoram. Mizoram (Lushai Hills) was once a district of Assam and was made into a Union Territory in 1972 and attained full statehood on 20 February 1987.

Due to their systematic persecution under East Pakistan (since 1947 up to 1971) and under Bangladesh (since 1971) – as has been explained in previous chapters – thousands of Chakmas have undoubtedly fled to India to save their lives. They have been provided refuge and protection in India officially by the government of India. They were never “illegal immigrants” or economic migrants like the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh (primary Bengalis) who flooded Assam, Tripura, West Bengal etc. The Chakmas who fled to India are refugees just like the Chins from Myanmar, Tibetans from Tibet (under China), Tamils from Sri Lanka and Afghans from Afghanistan. They should therefore be treated as such and not to be bracketed with other “illegal foreigners” in this country. It is true that a group of these refugees also settled down in Mizoram and subsequently provided Indian citizenships.

There is little meaning to the claim that Chakmas do not belong to Mizoram. The fact is they are as much sons of the soil as the Mizos are. There is enough modern historical evidence to prove Chakmas have been original inhabitants of western and Southern parts of Mizoram bordering Bangladesh. The ancient trading centre called Demagiri (still a Chakma dominated area) and its surrounding areas were once part of the Chakma kingdom the Chittagong Hill Tracts in present day Bangladesh but were transferred under the Lushai hills for administrative convenience by the British. As the provincial gazetteer of India Volume V at page 413 states:

"The station of Demagiri is not situated within the present area of South Lushai Hills. It is topographically within the area of Chittagong Hill Tracts. But under Sir Charles Elliot's order passed in 1892, it was declared that for administration purposes Demagiri should be considered a part and parcel of South Lushai Hills.”

The boundaries of CHT were revised and a strip on the east including Demagiri was transferred to Lushai Hills in 1900. Lushai Hills later became Mizoram.

In “Encyclopedia of North East India” Col. Ved Prakash writes:

“Early history of their (Chakmas’) settlement on the bank of River Karnafulee, and around the confluence of Karnafulee, Tuichang and Thega can be traced to the year 1763 when the East India Company by a Proclamation demarcated the Chakma territory as spreading over “all the hills from Pheni River to the Sangoo and from Nizampur Road in Chittagong to the Hills of Kooki Raja” (possibly meaning the South Lushai Hills)” (Page 1812)

Unfortunately, majority Mizos see the Chakmas as “aliens” and “outsiders” – someone who do not belong to the state. This notion feeds to the political aspirations of many political leaders who needed a break and political parties played politics over this emotive issue which is quite dangerous. The Chakmas are a distinct tribe having nothing in similar to Mizos except their physical attributes. The Chakmas are Buddhists in strong contrast to Christian dominated Mizoram; they have their own distinct language, script, dress and culture-norms. On a positive note, such differences should provide a celebration of cultural diversity rather than a reason for any strife.

Myth # 2: Chakmas have Autonomous District Council – decide their own future

Whenever Chakmas allege discrimination by the government of Mizoram, often we get a typical reply from the Mizos: “Chakmas have been granted Autonomous District Council and what do they want more?” That comes as a rude shock to me every time I hear it. The one-line answer emanates from lack of understanding of the issues properly and the misconception the Mizos have that all the Chakmas have been empowered with an Autonomous District Council which allows them to decide their own future. There is a general feeling that the Chakmas have no right to complaint after they have been given a “territory of their own” within Mizoram to administer. The Mizoram government also often rubbishes the claims of discrimination citing the Chakma Autonomous District Council as a measure of empowerment provided to the largest minority in the state. When discrimination against minorities like Lai and Mara are pointed out, a majority section of Mizos would hit back saying Lai and Mara are Mizos and hence, the question of racial discrimination did not arise.

About the claim that there is no discrimination whatsoever against the Chakmas in Mizoram, I will debunk later in this article, but here I deal with the question of the Chakma Autonomous District Council. Let me begin by saying that the notion that entire Chakma population in Mizoram enjoys power and privileges under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution is a fallacy.

In 1972, consequent to the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganisation) Act, 1971, Mizoram became a Union Territory and honouring the demands of the ethnic minorities the Central government created three separate Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) – one each for the Chakma, Mara and Lai minorities. The need for political safeguards within Mizoram was felt by the minorities as strongly as was felt by the Mizos when they demanded a separate state to be curbed out of Assam. By granting an ADC to the Chakmas in Mizoram under the Sixth Schedule the Central government led by the Congress took a major step to correct the mistakes committed by the Congress leaders in 1947 when the Chittagong Hill Tracts was awarded to Pakistan. But the attempt to assuage the sufferings of the Chakmas was half-hearted. Another grave mistake was committed in 1972, again by the Congress leadership, when half of the Chakma population was not included inside the area of CADC. Strangely, the Chakma Autonomous District Council was carved out of the Chakma-dominated areas of the erstwhile Chimtuipui district but did not include the Chakmas living in Lunglei and Mamit districts. As a result, more Chakmas live in Lunglei and Mamit districts than under the CADC.

While demanding autonomy under the Sixth Schedule, the Chakma leaders argued that all the Chakma inhabited areas should be included on the grounds that the entire Chakma population lives in contiguous areas and they share the same ancestry, history, social and cultural bonds and speak same language and follow the same religion (Buddhism). But their aspirations were hunted down.

The impact of exclusion of over half of the Chakma population from the CADC has been horrible. For decades, the excluded Chakmas have been deprived of development of their areas, jobs, education and livelihood. They are neglected, impoverished and disempowered. The state government has totally neglected the Chakmas’ arts, culture and literature in areas falling outside the CADC while the CADC continues to preserve and promote the unique culture, folklores, songs, music of the Chakmas inside the CADC and have even produced documentary and commercial telefilms. The Chakma children in Lunglei and Mamit districts have been deprived of elementary education in their mother tongue, a positive measure which the authorities of CADC have been taking in schools under the CADC jurisdiction. As per my knowledge, the state government of Mizoram has not published even a single book in Chakma language. While the CADC continues to promote Chakmas’ art and culture, the excluded Chakmas are lagging far behind. Thus there is a wide gap being created amongst the Chakmas in Mizoram due to the separation in 1972.

There is a common resentment among the Mizos against the grant of political power to the Chakmas by the Central government. Immediately after signing of the 1986 Peace Accord, the Mizo National Front (MNF) led by Laldenga asked the government of India to abrogate the CADC. But the government of India did not agree. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi told a rally in Aizawl: "If the Mizos expect justice from India as a small minority, they must safeguard the interest of their own minorities like the Chakmas".[9] “Between 1986 and 2000, […..] there have been 21 private members’ resolutions submitted in the Mizoram Legislative Assembly by Mizo legislators, mostly belonging to the MNF, calling for abolition of the Chakma Autonomous District Council. Seven of these private members’ resolutions were rejected, 14 were admitted of which two were discussed and finally negated because of stiff opposition by the Congress”.[10]

The three District Councils of Chakma, Lai and Mara reflect the plurality of Mizoram. The government will do well by facilitating inclusion of the entire Chakma population under the Chakma District Council to enable the Chakmas to develop uniformly and preserve their own culture while removing the growing gap between the Chakmas and Mizos on the barometer of human development. The extension of the area of CADC should be seen as further decentralization for development of Mizoram and preservation of the cultural identity including language, script, tradition etc of the Chakmas. Growing together of all sections of the population indicates progress, and not otherwise.

Myth # 3: Chakmas participate in the decision making process

If anything, this could be only partly true. For, out of over 72,000 Chakmas only about 35,000 Chakmas are empowered to participate in the decision making process; this happens within the Chakma Autonomous District Council in Lawngtlai district and through their single Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA). A large section of Chakmas living under Mamit and Lunglei districts have been denied representation/participation in the decision making process of the state government, although such decisions decisively affect them.

Outside the CADC, Chakmas have only one MLA from the community to represent them. The Chakmas of the Tlabung Assembly Constituency, a Chakma dominated constituency, has always elected a Chakma leader to represent them in the State Assembly. But Chakmas also live in at least four other Assembly Constituencies namely, Thorang, Dampa, Mamit and Hacchek. They elect their MLAs (Mizos) but these MLAs have never taken up their interests in the Assembly House.

In the 40-member State Assembly two Chakma MLAs are microscopic minority and their presence are not felt. Moreover, they were never seen taking a stand inside the House independent of the wishes of their respective party bosses. As a result, none was sitting in the State Legislature who could raise the voice of protest when various anti-minority laws such as the Recruitment Rules were being passed. Various Recruitment Rules require that candidates must have knowledge of Mizo up to Middle School standard, i.e. candidates must have studied the Mizo subject in school to be eligible for government jobs in Mizoram. These Recruitment Rules were primarily targeted at the non-Mizos, in particular the Chakmas, for Mizo rulers know most Chakmas do not learn the Mizo subject. Alternatively, there are simply no teachers appointed in Chakma village schools to teach the Mizo subject.

More significantly, Chakmas do not have any government servant at officer level outside the CADC. This make them more disempowered to deal with the problems or to improve their situation. They live at the mercy of the Mizo officials to have access to basic needs and facilities. Decisions relating to livelihood, forest rights, access to facilities under the Public Distribution System etc– all are decided for the Chakmas by the Mizos without consultation of the Chakmas, let alone their consent. For example, the Chakmas who are the worst victims of the ongoing India-Bangladesh Border Fencing have no say in the project whatsoever. The state government has little interest to know their problems relating to the fencing. So, who decides for the Chakmas? Surely, by the state machinery, minus the Chakmas.

Myth #4: Chakmas are highly educated

The myth is that Chakmas are highly educated. The truth is: they are the ones who have been most deprived of education in Mizoram. The concern arises as Mizoram is placed at No. 2 in the country’s literacy map. It is good to know Mizoram is at second spot, but the real question is: how far literate are the minorities?

The outside world including the decision-makers in New Delhi tend to believe that the minorities enjoy equal access to educational facilities alongside the Mizos which make the state of Mizoram only next to Kerala in literary rate. But there is no grain of truth in it. Not at least in the case of the Chakmas who are the largest minority community in the state.

Without giving any personal remarks let me examine the latest findings of the Census of India on the educational status of the minorities. According to the Census of India 2001, “Chakma has registered the lowest literacy of 45.3 per cent, with male and female literacy at 56.2 per cent and 33.6 per cent respectively.” In contrast, “Mizo (Lushai) tribes is on the top having 95.6 per cent literacy. With male and female literacy at 96.8 per cent and 94.4 per cent respectively, the gender gap in literacy is small (among Mizo). Chakma, Any Kuki tribes, and Any Naga tribes exhibit higher male-female disparity in literacy.” (Census of India 2001)

That is to say, even official statistics reveal that more than half of the Chakma population in Mizoram is illiterate. However, if Chakma activists are to be believed, the actual literacy rate is much lower than the official estimate. There could be much amount of truth in this claim for the simple reason that many Chakmas (especially the older generation) are not educated in any other medium but have informal education in their mother tongue, which is not recognized by the state government of Mizoram. The National Literacy Mission considers any one a literate who has acquired the 3 R’s - reading, writing and arithmetic and can use them in daily life. This means that you are counted as literate if you do not put thump impression when asked to write your name. Interestingly, the Chakmas have their own scripts and the older generation Chakmas can read, write and sign their names in Chakma scripts. For this the state government has no contribution at all, as the state government does not facilitate teaching of the Chakma mother tongue or scripts in schools and has not recognized the language. In the absence of state patronage, Chakma literature is optionally acquired or inherited by the younger generation from their parents or grandparents or village elders. But due to lack of official patronage, the Chakma script is almost dead and is only used by some of our grandparents. If this generation dies, the invaluable scripts will be extinct in Mizoram.

The actual literacy rate of the entire Chakma population in Mizoram could not be more than 30%. It is as high as 45% in the official record only because even the elderly Chakmas (who have never attended a school in their life time) can sign their names in Chakma script.

The educational condition of the Chakmas is pathetic. There is increasing insecurity among the Chakmas about their future as they are not able to provide higher education to their children. The Chakma parents know that today graduation is the minimum qualification for getting jobs. But where will they get this degree? In Chakma villages, only SSA schools are available, where there is simply no quality education. SSA schools have effectively helped only to raise the number of enrolment of children – a parameter the state government can boast about in official statements and records. This in turn will paint a rosy picture about the educational status of the minorities in the state.

This in practice won’t help the Chakmas much. I have travelled across Mizoram villages where the Chakmas live and I can say with authority that most villages simply do not have schools beyond primary level. Wherever primary schools have been set up, these are under SSA Mission, meaning these were established just a couple of years ago. The question is what was the state government doing all these years? The state government had practically kept generations of Chakmas uneducated by denying them access to schools.

Till today, the educational ostracization of the Chakmas continues. Chakma children do not know where to go after passing primary schools or middle schools.

As a result, a few unscrupulous individuals have lately been taking advantage of this hapless situation of the Chakma parents by collecting huge amount in the name of providing nearly free residential education to their children in schools outside the state of Mizoram. But dozens of such children have landed in trouble, and ultimately had to return home – hopeless and more traumatized.


To be continued…….>>>>>

Footnotes:

[1]. Sneha Kumar Chakma's memorandum to CHADIGANG CONFERERNCE - Amsterdam 10 - 11 October 1986
[2]. Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, http://chtcommission.org/?page_id=85
[3]. “The construction of the Kaptai dam uproots the indigenous population (1957-1963)”, The Internal-Displacement Monitoring Centre (IMDC)
[4]. Collective name for 13 indigenous non-Bengali ethnic groups in the CHT. The term “Jumma” is derived from the traditional method of cultivation practised by the hill people
[5]. The four demands were 1) Autonomy for the CHT, 2) Retention of the CHT Regulation 1900, 3) Recognition of the three kings of the Jummas and 4) Ban on the influx of the non Jummas into the CHT.
[6]. “Background of Jummas & CHT”, http://www.angelfire.com/ab/jumma/bground.html
[7]. “Undeclared War in the CHT (1972-1997)”, http://www.angelfire.com/ab/jumma/bground/udwar.html
[8]. Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Government of Bangladesh
[9]. “Internal Displacement in South Asia”, Paula Banerjee, Sabyasachi Chaudhury and Samir Kumar Das (Editors); Chapter 4: “India’s Northeast: Nobody’s People in No-man’s Land” by Subir Bhaumik, Page 164
[10]. “The Politics of Autonomy: Indian Experiences” – edited by Ranabir Samaddar, Page 228

1 comment:

Why>! said...

I think Southern Mizoram is more neglected than Northern areas of Mizoram. The literacy was lower in the southern districts of lawngtlai and saiha compared to aizawl. This may be attributed to the distance from Aizawl city which has been the primary concern of all previous state governments.

It was quite strange when recently Lunglei demanded statehood. Thus, this is a bit of a north-south divide.