Saturday, June 27, 2009

In pictures: The life and times of the Chakmas in Mizoram



Chakma dwelling houses


Chakma children, waiting....


Chakma men at work


Chakma women at work


A young Chakma girl with her sibling



A young Chakma boy with his sibling on the back

A young Chakma boy: A burden too heavy?


A Chakma woman selling home-made "rice cake" at market


At a local market in a Chakma village



Fetching water from river



A bamboo raft as mode of travel


A Jhum: traditional and chief occupation of Chakma tribals




Going home

Going to catch fish in the river
A note from the author: Through the above pictures, I have tried to capture the lives and struggles of the Chakma tribals who are very simple people with simple minds and ambitions. All they want are basic facilities which still elude them. These pictures have been captured by me from different Chakma villages/places in Mizoram. Copywrite of these pictures belong to me (Paritosh Chakma). Hence, they can only be used by others after obtaining prior permission.
The Chakmas have their distinct culture, tradition and script. In Mizoram, they live mostly in the Southern part (Chakma Autonomous District Council) and in the western belt, along the India-Bangladesh borders.
Mostly, they live on the river banks. Hence, rivers are crucial for their livelihood, culture and survival. Various modes of transportation are used by Chakma villagers to sail in the rivers – to visit relatives in other villages, to go to market and to go to Jhums (as seen in the pictures above). The only other mode of travel is on foot.
The Chakma tribals are peace-loving souls and they toil really hard in the hills. Their villages are secluded and serene, where time still moves slowly. They are cut off from the hustle and bustle of life. But they are economically very poor and their habitations lacked development. This makes them vulnerable to diseases, illiteracy etc and makes them less relevant to the fast changing times. As their traditional means of livelihood, Jhum, is rapidly dwindling, they fear for their future.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rs 3 crores border fencing compensation siphoned off in Mizoram?

According to a news item appearing in The Shillong Times dated 22 June 2009, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Mizoram unit filed a complaint with the police alleging that over Rs 3 crore meant for compensating the victims of the India-Bangladesh border fencing has been siphoned off.

The news report stated –

"The Mizoram BJP on Sunday alleged that the compensation meant for affected people of the India-Bangladesh border fencing amounting to Rs 3,02,42,500 has been siphoned off.
State BJP information secretary K Lalchhanhima said the compensation to the tune of Rs 95,87,300 for landowners of Jarulsury-Kukurduley sector had been drawn under 30 fictitious names or land passes, while another Rs 2,06,55,200 for Kukurduley-Borakobakali sector had even been drawn the same way under 60 fictitious names or land passes.

The BJP further alleged that three officials siphoned off the money for their relatives. ''Of the Rs 7,87,70,250 sanctioned, Rs 3,02,42,500 has been diverted, '' he stated

The party had filed an FIR with the Lawngtlai police station, he said and demanded the Congress government to book the culprits and ensure that the money reaches the true landowners."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Clarification: My blog is not anti-Mizo

Dear all,

I have learnt with deepest sorrow that my blog is being dubbed as “anti-Mizo” blog. (Clarify from Is Sinlung.com twitter promoting anti-Mizo blog posts? in samaw.com, and “Why is Sinlung.com promoting anti-Mizo blog posts?” from Rapha’s blog.)

I take these allegations (or such misunderstandings) very seriously as I do not want to be, or intend to be, another head-hunter but my entire cause is to fight for what is right and against injustice.

I have also left clarifications both in Samaw.com and Rapha’s blog.

Elsewhere while debating racism in the North East India I have stated - “I have never said or suggested that entire Mizos are racists. Mizo society is one of the finest and best we have in the world. I always exhort my fellow Chakmas to learn from the Mizo society – their hospitality, their goodness, cleanliness and progressiveness. In fact, what I want to say is Chakmas face most discrimination from the state, not Mizo public. This institutionalized discrimination (for whatever reasons) must change and Mizoram government must take minorities along to the path of development. True development is inclusive and equitable developement. Mizoram must aspire just towards that.”( http://samaw.com/do-chakmas-in-mizoram-face-discrimination/1329#more-1329)

In my blog http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/ I write to highlight the problems (including discrimination) faced by the Chakmas from the government of Mizoram, not the general Mizo public. I firmly believe that Mizoram can truely develop only when all sections of people are developed in all parameters of human development index. If anybody is concerned that government of Mizoram means “mizos” – well it’s like considering the government of India belongs to, and means, the “Hindustanis” (Hindi-speaking people). Surely, government of Mizoram is not synonymous with the Mizos (public). All of us (voters of all communities) elect the government of Mizoram and hence, it is our government. The State must be fair to all and work towards everyone's welfare. It cannot discriminate against any community or person and deny them their fundamental rights. If any citizen of Mizoram does not want to see any blot on Mizoram (the state), it is like not wanting to see or hear any criticism about India in the international forums. But we (including the North Eastern people and NGOs) do strongly and rightly criticise India for her wrong policies including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in various UN forums. We cannot turn blind eye to the wrong policies of the state and must fight for justice.

I do not harbour any ill feeling towards any community, including the Mizo brethrens, in my writings and in my blog. I am convinced that no one gains by scoring against another community. But we must be bold enough to face the truth and stand by the truth.

To repeat myself, I consider that Mizos are wonderful and fantastic people and anybody who has visited Mizoram during the rainy days would come to know how helpful and united Mizos are. Whenever there are any road blockades due to landslide, Mizo passengers – both men and women jump out and help clear the hurdle in the rain. Anybody who watches silently from inside the bus or car is bound to feel ashamed by witnessing the spirit of the people there.

My fight is not directed against any Mizo or Mizo community as such. But my struggle has been to highlight various problems and denials and deprivations faced by Chakmas in Mizoram due to apathy of the state government. In some cases there are institutionalized discrimination by the state. For example discrimination against linguistic minorities through Recruitment Rules, denial of development by non-implementation of BADP funds to benefit the targeted population in the border areas etc. I write the facts and I stand by what I write. I do not write baseless allegations. I welcome debate and discussions on all matters that come up in my blog.

I also feel that any post elsewhere which originate from my blog should be linked to the original post of my blog for healthy understanding and discussion.

Best,

Paritosh Chakma

Mizoram: Misuse of BADP funds

____________________________________________________________________

Read a shorter version of this report - "Misuse of BADP funds in Mizoram" in Merinews.com, 19 June 2009 at http://www.merinews.com/catFull.jsp?articleID=15773212

______________________________________________________________

By-Paritosh Chakma

I am encouraged by the recent candid admission by Mizoram Chief Secretary Vanhela Pachuau that the funds under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) have been siphoned off and warned that ''Anybody found misusing the BADP fund will not be spared".

The Chief Secretary has confirmed a few cases where the contractors have drawn 60 percent of the fund in advance but failed to carry out the works in Lawngtlai and Saiha districts. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

Certainly, acts of misappropriation of funds or use of funds to develop areas beyond the ambit of the BADP come under the meaning of “misuse of funds”. Non-use of funds is another problem that needs to be addressed.

The main objective of the BADP is “to meet the special developmental needs of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border and to saturate the border areas with the entire essential infrastructure through convergence of Central/State/ BADP/Local schemes and participatory approach”. The BADP is a 100% centrally funded programme.

Sometimes, I do not believe my own eyes and ears when I read and hear that a huge range of development activities can be undertaken under the BADP which has the potential to transform the lives of those “people living in remote and inaccessible areas”. But the aam aadmi is being denied their rights and privileges.

The following are various schemes/projects that can be taken up under BADP sectors:

1) Education:
(i) Primary/Middle/Secondary/Higher secondary school buildings (including additional
rooms)
(ii) Development of play fields
(iii) Construction of hostels/dormitories
(iv) Public libraries and reading rooms

2) Health

(i) Building infrastructure (PHC/CHC/SHC) .
(ii) Provision of medical equipments of basic/elementary Type X-Ray, ECG machines, equipment for dental clinic, pathological labs. etc. can also be purchased.
(iii) Setting up of mobile dispensaries/ ambulances in rural areas by Govt/ Panchayati Raj
Institutions including Tele medicine.

3) Agriculture and allied sectors
(i) Animal Husbandry & Dairying
(ii) Pisciculture
(iii) Sericulture
(iv) Poultry farming/ Fishery/ Pig/Goat/Sheep farming.
(v) Farm forestry, horticulture/floriculture.
(vi) Public drainage facilities.
(vii) Construction of irrigation embankments, or lift irrigation or water table recharging
Facilities (including minor irrigation works).
(viii) water conservation programmes
(ix) Soil conservation-protection of erosion-flood protection.
(x) Social Forestry, JFM, parks, gardens in government and community lands or other
Surrendered lands including pasturing yards.
(xi) Use of improved seeds, fertilizers and improved technology
(xii) Veterinary aid Centres, artificial insemination Centres and breeding Centres.
(xiii) Area specific approach keeping in view the economy of Scale- Backward-Forward integration.

4) Infrastructure
(i) Construction and strengthening of approach roads, link roads (including culverts& bridges)
(ii) Industries- Small Scale with local inputs viz. handloom, handicraft, furniture making, tiny units, black smith works etc. and food processing industry
(iii) Provisions of civic amenities like electricity, water, pathways, ropeways, foot bridges, hanging bridges, public toilets in slum areas and in SC/ST habitations and at tourist centers, bus stands etc.
(iv) Development of infrastructure for weekly haats/ bazaars and also for cultural activities etc. in border areas.
(v) Construction of buildings for recognized District or State Sports Associations and for
Cultural and Sport Activities or for hospitals (provision of multi-gym facilities in
Gymnastic centers, sports association, physical education training institutions, etc.)
(vi) Construction of houses for officials engaged in education sector and health sector in remote border areas.
(vii) Tourism/Sports/Adventure Sports Scheme- creation of world class infrastructure for
tourism and sports in border block wherever feasible- like rock climbing, mountaineering, river rafting, forest trekking, skiing and safaris (car/bike race, camel safaris, yak riding, boating in Rann of Kutchh.
(viii) Creation of new tourist centers.
(ix) Construction of mini open stadium/indoor stadium/auditoriums.
(x) New & Renewable electricity - Bio gas/ Biomass gasification, Solar& Wind energy and Mini Hydel Projects -systems/devices for community use and related activities.

5. Social Sector
(i) Construction of community centers
(ii) Construction of Anganwadis
(iii) Rural Sanitation blocks.
(iv) Cultural Centres/ Community Halls
(v) Construction of common shelters for the old or Handicapped
(vi) Capacity building programme by way of vocational studies & training for youth for self employment and skill up gradation of artisans and weavers.

6. Miscellaneous:
i) Development of Model villages in border areas.
ii) E-chaupals/ agrishops/ mobile media vans/market yards.
iii) Cluster approach wherever feasible.

Only if half of all these – which are meant for the border people – were implemented in the Mizoram-Bangladesh border areas inhabited by the Chakma minority tribals, the Chakma community would have been developed in terms of education, access to health, self employment and infrastructure.

The BADP has been in implementation in Mizoram from 1993-1994. In the initial years up to 1997-1998, only four Rural Development Blocks along Indo-Bangladesh border were covered. During this period of five years, a total of 11.55 crores were allocated to Mizoram only to develop the India-Bangladesh border which is predominantly inhabited by the Chakma tribals. The year-wise allocations were as follows:

1993-94 – Rs 2.84 crore
1994-95- Rs 3.25 crore
1995-96 – Rs 2.73 crore
1996-97 – Rs 2.73 crore

But no development took taken place along the 318-km Mizoram-Bangladesh border. People continued to live in broken houses without any sanitation. Most of the villages up to 1998 were without schools, Health Sub Centres, roads, water facilities, play grounds, community halls or livelihood etc (except traditional “jhum” cultivation).

In 1997-1998 the programme was extended on the eastern side of Mizoram bordering Myanmar.

Presently, BADP scheme is implemented in 16 R.D Blocks whose geographical area totals 12665.09 sq.kms. Of these, 11 R.D Blocks are situated along the Indo-Myanmar border and the rest five R.D Blocks are along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

A total of Rs 146.82 crore have been released to the state of Mizoram under BADP to develop the border areas from 1997 to 2008 as given under:

1997-98 - Rs 6.73 crore
1998-99 - Rs 6.82 crore
1999-2000 - Rs 8.00 crore
2000-01 - Rs 12.32 crore
2001-02- Rs 16.08 crore
2002-03 – Rs 16.32 crore
2003-04 – Rs 12.48 crore
2004-05 – Rs 15.56 crore
2005-06- Rs 9.03 crore
2006-07 – Rs 22.62 crore
2007-08 – Rs 20.86 crore[1]

Hence, a grand total of Rs 158.37 crore have been released to the state of Mizoram from 1993 to 2008.

I do not know how Mizoram is continued to be dubbed as “better performing state” in terms of implementation of BADP. No citizen knows where the money is being pumped in since there is no semblance of development in the areas nearest to the border. Mizoram government has claimed to have utilized the full amounts every year except an amount of Rs 991.83 lakhs which it did not utilize during 2006-07 (Position as on 13.02.2008).[2] Even this non-utilization of funds to the tune of Rs 991.83 lakhs when the targeted population are in dire need of facilities, is a criminal act.

Certainly, the BADP funds are not reaching the targeted population. In order to fine tune the programme, the Ministry of Home Affairs – Department of Border Management has revised its guidelines. The 2009 guidelines has asked the state governments to utilize the BADP funds only in those villages of the blocks, which are located “within 0-10 km” from the international border. The 2009 guidelines further stated:

“Those villages, which are located nearer to the international border will get first priority. After saturating these villages with basic infrastructure, the next set of villages located within 0-15 km and 0-20 km need to be taken up. If the first village in a block is located at a far away location from the international border, the first village/hamlet in the block may be taken as "0" km distance village for drawing the priority list.”

Effectively, in Mizoram, most of the Chakma villages along the Mizoram-Bangladesh border are located within 0-15 km radius from the international border. Hence, they should be given the first priority of development.

For so long, the Chakma minorities have been denied the right to development. About half of the Chakma population in the state are said to be residing outside the Chakma Autonomous District Council and they have been deprived of human development in terms of education, health care, roads, electricity, water supply and other infrastructure and livelihood.

Now, with the stringent provision in place requiring BADP funds be utilized first within “0-10 km” from the international border, can the state government hoodwink the Central government and deny the inhabitants of India-Bangladesh border villages development?

It is to be seen how far the state government is willing to stick to the 2009 guidelines.

Footnotes:

[1]. Statement showing the amount released during the last 10 years (1997-98 to 2007-08) under Border Area Development Programme to various BADP States, Lokh Sabha Unstarred question NO 1669 for 11.03.2008, available at http://164.100.47.133/annex/lsq14/13/AU1669.htm
[2]. Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India available at http://www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/BADP.pdf

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brazen violations of the rights of the linguistic minorities in Mizoram

By- Paritosh Chakma
_____________________________________________________________________

"In the 41st Report of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorties, the government of Mizoram has in fact admitted that “knowledge of Mizo is a pre requisite for recruitment”. The Commissioner in his remark rightly observed that “In such a case there s no chance for linguistic minorities to get Government jobs." The Commissioner stated that this must change. This is precisely what I have been trying to convey too."

______________________________________________________________________

One of the important safeguards guaranteed to the linguistic minorities in India is “No insistence upon knowledge of State’s Official Language at the time of recruitment. " For other safeguards for linguistic minorities, see http://www.nclm.nic.in/index1.asp?linkid=126

This and many other safeguards for linguistic minorities have been willfully and brazenly violated in the state of Mizoram.

In one of my previous posts “Outright discrimination against Chakmas in Mizoram (Discrimination on the basis of language), I have highlighted the discrimination being done against Chakmas, a linguistic minority in Mizoram, in employment. Various Recruitment Rules in the state have set the requirement for the candidates to study Mizo subject to be eligible for government jobs. I have also named several Recruitment Rules of various departments which have set this discriminatory pre-requisite.

I have also pointed out that Mizo subject is not being taught in schools in Chakma inhabited villages and no Mizo language teachers have been appointed in these schools (both in Chakma Autonomous District Council areas and other Chakma areas outside the CADC). In such circumstances, Chakmas are at disadvantage in matters of employment considering the Recruitment Rules. Also, several Chakma students go outside the state of Mizoram for their schooling and return after graduation to find that they are not eligible for jobs under the state government. This is discrimination.

Many argue that it is compulsory for all residents of Mizoram to learn to speak the Mizo language in order to serve the public better, as Mizo is the official state language.

I reiterate that I have no different opinion on this (that even Chakmas must know to speak Mizo to be able to better communicate with the public who they will serve as state employees). But my complaint is against the requirement to study Mizo subject up to Middle School level which the Chakmas do not study and the state government does not facilitate such learning in the Chakma village schools. As a result, many Chakmas who speak good Mizo (which they acquire afterwards, say during college life) are not eligible for jobs. That is because they can learn the Mizo language but cannot legally add Mizo subject in their Class VII pass certificate.

The reports of the National Commissioner Linguistic Minorities (http://www.nclm.nic.in/), a constitutional body set up under Article 350B of the Constitution, on the conditions of linguistic minorities in Mizoram are disturbing. (The duty of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities is to “investigate all matters relating to safeguards provided for the linguistic minorities and report to the President at such intervals as may be fixed”.)

I have also seen the latest reports (including 41st and 43rd reports) of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities. The findings are startling.

In the 41st Report, the government of Mizoram has in fact admitted that “knowledge of Mizo is a pre requisite for recruitment”. The Commissioner in his remark rightly observed that “In such a case there s no chance for linguistic minorities to get Government jobs." The Commissioner stated that this must change. This is precisely what I have been trying to convey too.

There is no “independent body” for monitoring the safeguards for the linguistic minority in Mizoram.

The state government failed to submit replies to the questionnaire for the 42nd Report on time “despite a number of reminders at different levels”. (Commissioner Linguistic Minorities , 42nd Report July 2003 to June 2004)

In 43rd Report , the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities stated “

It is stated that for recruitment to the services, the knowledge of Mizo up to upper primary standard is necessary. But in the visit to the Nepali school, it was found that Mizo was not taught there up to upper primary standard. Since they can then pursue higher studies through English medium, those desirous of joining the services are at a disadvantage. This condition should either be relaxed for such candidates or a general rule be made that knowledge of Mizo is not compulsory at the time of recruitment. Since Mizo is the Official language, the knowledge of Mizo must be acquired with a stipulated period after joining service.” (Forty Third Report 2004 - 05)

The same must hold true in the case of the Chakmas. No Mizo is being taught in the schools in Chakma dominated areas (including in the areas falling outside the Chakma ADC).

Another important observation made in the 43rd Report was that Tribal Research Institute, Aizawl “is not working on any language other than Mizo and is not producing any books in them. Being the Institute for all the residents of Mizoram, it should also be working for these languages. At least the folklore of the these tribes can be published in their own language. This would not require the services of the linguists but more in depth study of the folk lore of the local people would be necessary. It would, of course, be much better if there are linguists and introductory books for learning the languages are prepared and printed. TRI can also than prepare the books in Lai and Mara.

The National Commissioner Linguistic Minorities found several inconsistencies in the replies of the Mizoram government on linguistic minorities. Even the number of speakers of different languages did not tally.

As per the 41st Report, Mizo was spoken by 75.11 % and the minority languages are –

"Language ...........Percentage
Bengali ....................8.57
Nepali .....................3.83
Lakher .....................3.32
Pawi ........................2.22
Hmar .....................1.38
Hindi ......................1.28
Nepali ....................1.20
Paite........................ 1.12"

Curiously, the Chakma (who are are the second largest tribal ethnic group in the state) and Reang linguistic groups, did not figure in the list.

As per the 43rd Report, the number of persons speaking different languages in Mizoram are as follows:

Language .........Persons .........Percentage
Mizo ....................7,73,058 ................87.7
Chakma ..............71,085 ................... 8.0
Hindi ..................31,988 ....................3.6
Bengali ................9,774 .....................1.1

This time, linguistic groups such as Hmar, Lai, Mara, Reang, Nepali etc were not included or data not provided. Interestingly, Mizo shot up from 75.11% (as reported in the 41st Report 2002-2003) to 87.7% in 43rd Report 2004 – 05 while Bengali was reduced from 8.57% to 1.1%. Certainly, there are inconsistencies there. Chakma at 8% is the largest minority langauge. Yet, it often does not find mention in state government official records.

Employment is not only a source of income generation which provides economic stability but also a means of providing empowerment to the people. Due to negligible representation of the Chakmas in the state machinary - accentuated by the discrimination they face on the basis of various Recruitment Rules, the Chakmas are less empowered to deal with their problems.

The state's linguistic minorities must not be discriminated on the basis of language and other considerations. The Mizoram government must implement the recommendation of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities in his 41st report that "Mizo should not be essential for entry into services though it can be stipulated that it will have to be learnt in the prescribed period and before the end of probation period”. The Forty Third Report 2004 - 05 of Commissioner Linguistic Minorities suggested that knowledge of Mizo should not be made compulsory at the time of recruitment but "the knowledge of Mizo must be acquired with a stipulated period after joining service". It implies that the discriminatory Recruitment Rules must be scrapped to remove the language hurdle for linguistic minorities in state employments.

We are talking. But is the government of Mizoram listening?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mizoram: Builum village's IDPs deprived of basic facilities to force them to vacate homes

(Submerged future? :A house in the middle of water from the hydel project at Builum village. Courtesy: http://www.lawrkhawm.com)

By - Paritosh Chakma


In yet another case of neglect of the rights of the displaced persons, the Mizoram government has allegedly stopped all facilities to the Mizo tribal residents of Builum village under Kolasib district to force them to move out of the village. The Builum village is facing submergence due to a dam constructed over Serlui river to produce electricity.

24 families of Builum village refused to vacate their homes alleging that they have not been provided adequate compensation after their agricultural lands, houses and farms/ gardens have been submerged by the dam water of the 12-MW Serlui B hydel project. About 80 families from Builum village have accepted resettlement package offered by the state government of Mizoram and they have been resettled at Bawktlang village under Kolasib.

The state government has rejected the accusation that adequate compensation has eluded the victims. Instead, the state government has taken punitive measures to force the villagers to vacate their homes. According to social activist Ruatfela Nu who has visited the village, the villagers have not been getting basic facilities such as ration supply, school, water facilities, healthcare and electricity for the last one year. (Newslink, Aizawl, 12 June 2009) Clearly, the state government is totally insensitive to the problems of the affected villagers.

The state government has reportedly closed down the school at Builum village which constitutes deprivation of fundamental right to basic education to over 35 children of the families who continued to stay in the village.

Since most of the agricultural lands of the villagers have been submerged, the villages do not have any income sources to survive. But the state government has made their lives more miserable by stopping supply of ration under the Public Distribution System, drinking water supply and electricity to the remaining villagers of Builum village. The residents of Builum village have not been getting these facilities since for the last one year.

The residents of Builum village are in urgent need of basic amenities like food, water, medicines, school education, electricity supply and jobs.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mizoram: Health check list for officials

By- Paritosh Chakma

On 11 June 2009, Mizoram’s Health Department in a statement stated that 17 people died of malaria during January to April 2009 in the state. This is itself alarming. But I think this is a very underestimated figure.

Malaria is number one enemy in Mizoram. Particularly the rural areas are malaria prone and the villagers are more victims than in urban areas.

Yet, the govt of Mizoram’s fight against malaria is grossly inadequate. Any villager of Mizoram, in any corner of the state, will agree with me that there not adequate measures installed there to fight malaria and other easily curable diseases. This lack of preparedness kills hundreds every year.

Mizoram is one of the 18 “high focus states” in the National Rural Health Mission (2005-2012) but the basic healthcare facility is yet to reach the rural areas. The goal of the NRHM “to improve the availability of and access to quality healthcare by people, especially for those residing in rural areas, the poor, women and children” - which is still an unrealistic dream.

All rural Mizoram face the problem of lack of access to proper and basic healthcare. In the Chakma inhabited areas along the Mizorram-Bangladesh borders, people think they still live in the Dark Ages. That's because people continue to die from unknown diseases. In some remotest areas, where there are no roads, villagers don't have even a malaria pill to consume or any trained health personnel to consult - simply because both are not available for them.

Yet, the government of Mizoram boasts of having recruited more health staff or established more health centres than necessary for the people of Mizoram. A government data of March 2007 stated that Mizoram had 366 Sub Centres against the required 146; 57 Primary Health Centres against required 22; and 9 Community Health Centres against required 5 in the state! The same data points out that there were 39 doctors at PHCs against required 57 (that is shortfall of 18), there were 303 Heath Workers against required 366 (that is shortfall of 63); but surprisingly no shortfall of Health Assistants (both male and female). See http://www.mohfw.nic.in/NRHM/State%20Files/Mizoram.htm

If that is the case, then why there is no medical staffs (health assistants) in Chakma villages. I am sure even the Mizo villages, or Hmar villages, or Lai villages in Lai ADC or Mara villages in Mara ADC and certainly in Bru villages do not have adequate number of health staff to take care of their health needs.

If we have more Sub Centres and Primary Health Centres and Community Health Centres than are actually required in Mizoram, the question arises as to why some of the villages do not have any? Certainly, not all villages in Mizoram have Primary Health Centres. Some even do not have Sub Centres. Many Chakma village on the India-Bangladesh border (which are outside the Chakma ADC) certainly do not have these medical facilities.

Then, what is the Mizoram government trying to tell to the world?

The government of Mizoram needs to re-think its health policies. First and foremost, Mizoram government must recruit such health experts who can appropriately calculate how many SCs, PHCs and hospitals we need in Mizoram, so that its people, in every corners, enjoy the right to "highest attainable physical and mental health".

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Chakma 'queen' called Kalpana Chakma


By- Paritosh Chakma


Exactly 13 years ago, a Chakma indigenous woman leader was abducted by army officials and disappeared without a trace in Chittagong Hills Tract of Bangladesh.

Ms Kalpana Chakma, Organizing Secretary of the Hill Women’s Federation, was kidnapped from her home at Lallyaghona village in Rangamati district by Lt. Ferdous, then commander of Kojoichari army camp, at the midnight of 11-12 June 1996. The incident occurred hours before voting for the 7th General Elections in Bangladesh.


At the dead hours of the night (around 1 am), some plain-clothed army personnel knocked at the door of the Chakma family. Lieutenant Ferdous with his 11 soldiers raided Kalpana’s home and picked her up forcibly. Kalpana’s 60-year-old mother Badhuni Chakma told reporters -


“We were asleep when someone called out from outside and wanted to know who were inside the house. Then they pulled down the latch of the door from outside and entered the house. They kept powerful torchlight on our face and took away my younger son Khudiram saying that his 'Sir' (Lieut. Ferdous) wanted to talk to him. Few minutes later they took away my elder son Kalicharan and my daughter Kalpana leaving behind myself and Kalicharan's wife.”

Kalpana's mother said she recognised the voice of Lt. Ferdous who had visited their house earlier. The day before her abduction, Kalpana, who was known for her fierce statements criticizing the army and the Bangladesh government, had an argument with Lt. Ferdous about an incident of 19 March 1996 in which some Jumma people were injured and some houses belonging to Jumma people were set on fire by soldiers from his camp.

Kalpana’s elder brothers - Khudiram and Kalicharan were taken to the lake near their house, blindfolded and their hands tied to the back. But somehow they managed to escape from the clutches of their abductors. One of Kalpana's brothers recognised Lt. Ferdous and two Village Defence Party (VDP) personnel - Nurul Haq, s/o Munsi Miah and Saleh Ahmed - among the kidnappers.

Khudiram Chakma, brother of Kalpana, described how he escaped -

"I was asked to dip into the water near the lake. As soon as I did so, someone shouted 'shoot him'. Sensing imminent death I somehow untied my hand, removed blindfold around my eyes and started running in the waist deep water. I could hear one gunshot behind me but I kept running."

He could hear Kalpana cry out “Dada, Dada, mahre baja” in Chakma tongue which means “brother, brother, save me”. She was forcibly taken away, melting into the darkness. For the Chakmas and for her family, she never saw the light of the day.

On 27 June 1996, the Jumma activists staged demonstration throughout the CHT to press for the release of Kalpana Chakma. During the demonstration 16-year-old schoolboy Rupam Chakma was shot down by the police and three students - Monotosh Chakma, Sukesh Chakma and Samar Bijoy Chakma went missing in Baghaichari on their way to the peaceful demonstrations.

From day one, the army had tried to cover up the abduction of Kalpana. Although Kalpana’s brother Khudiram Chakma mentioned the names of Lt. Ferdous and the VDP persons (Nurul Haq, son of Munsi Miah and Saleh Ahmed) when he lodged an official complaint, there was no mention of any involvement by the security forces in the FIR.

The army denied any involvement in the kidnapping. Initially the army suggested that it was a love affair and that she and Lt. Ferdous had eloped. Later, the army dropped leaflets from a helicopter announcing Taka 50,000 to anyone who could provide information about Kalpana Chakma’s whereabouts.

There were misinformation campaigns too. A Bangladesh government-controlled NGO Bangladesh Human Rights Commission announced at a press conference on 15 August 1996 that Kalpana Chakma was seen in Tripura, India and that she had stage managed her own abduction. The Agartala-based Humanity Protection Forum investigated the allegation on the spot but found the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission's statement was absolutely baseless and false.

Following pressure from the national and international organizations and governments, the government of Bangladesh ordered a judicial inquiry into the abduction and disappearance of Kalpana Chakma on 7 September 1996, almost three months after the abduction. The government of Bangladesh set up a three-member enquiry committee to investigate the case. The committee members were former Justice Abdul Jalil (chairperson), Shakhawat Hossain, Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong and Professor Anupam Sen of Chittagong University.

Justice Abdul Jalil Enquiry Committee submitted the report to the Ministry of Home Affairs on 27 February 1998. But the report was not made public as yet.


Nothing happened despite widespread international condemnation, including a joint resolution on Bangladesh passed by the European Parliament on 24 October 1996 calling for the “immediate release of Mrs Kalpana Chakma” and setting up of “an impartial committee of inquiry” to identify her abductors and role of the army in her disappearance.


Every year the Indigenous Jummas organize rallies in protest against the abduction of Kalpana Chakma and demand that the government come clean. But such democratic protests really felt on the deaf ears of the Bangladesh government which has refused to make the report of the Judicial Enquiry Committee public and prosecute the perpetrators.

In fact, Bangladesh is a country where religious and ethnic minorities do never get justice. Abduction of Kalpana Chakma is not one off case. Many other Jumma women had also been victimised. Over 94% of the rape cases of Jumma women in the CHT between 1991 and 1993 were by the security forces. Over 40% of the victims were women under 18 years of age. None of the perpetrators were brought to justice.

Possibly Kalpana Chakma was killed in army custody. A virulent and fierce fighter for human rights of the oppressed Jummas in a democratic manner, she would remain a challenge for the Bangladesh government if she was spared by the army.

However, she continues to remain in the hearts of the Jummas and every lover of freedom to inspire them for justice and freedom of the oppressed sections of society. She is a Chakma queen of different genre.

Long live Kalpana Chakma.


******

Read further, "We will not let them forget you" - Daily Star, Bangladesh, 12 June 2009, http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=92157

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Women Reservation Bill and Mizoram

By - Paritosh Chakma

With the handsome win of the Congress party in the 2009 General Elections and the support the principal opposition in the parliament, Bharatiya Janata Party is extending to the Women Reservation Bill, India is expected to achieve yet another milestone in empowerment of women. We have just elected Meira Kumar as Speaker of Lok Sabha, a position which a woman has occupied for the first time in independent India.

Observers say now India is actually governed by three women – President of India Mrs Pratibha Patil, President of ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Lok Sabha Speaker Mrs Meira Kumar.

However, the Women Reservation Bill will face stiff opposition from several male politicians. Recently, the Yadav trio – Sharad Yadav of Janata Dal (United), Mulayam Singh Yadav of Samajwadi Party and Lalu Yadav of Rashtriya Janata Dal have sharply opposed the bill. While the last two Yadavs suggested alternatives (likely increasing the seats in the Parliament to accomodate women MPs and compulsory requirement by political parties to field women in elections), Sharad Yadav threatened to kill himself by consuming poison if the Women Reservation Bill was passed. His ridiculous threat only shows that for some politicians it is the death of parliamentary debates. This explains why our Parliamentarians find nothing worthy to debate inside the House and the House sittings are met with frequent disruptions by unruly members and the 14th Lok Sabha saw the least number of sittings.

Vulnerable sections are always neglected and exploited. I fear that even if the Women Reservation Bill is passed and women are given the 33% reservations in Parliament as well as in the Panchayats, it is most likely that this benefit would be misused by male chauvinists. Many politicians who have no chance to win will simply field their wives or daughters as proxy candidates. For the convicted criminals who have been barred by the court from contesting elections, the law will be a boon. The elected wives will just be puppets at the hands of their criminal husbands who will (mis)use the powers. Hence, the Women Reservation Bill doesn't address these fears.

In the village level, the men will continue to remain at the helm of affairs as their wives as elected Panches and Sarpanches will meekly follow whatever their husbands say. For some males, it will be easy to capture powers through their wives or female members of the household. The very purpose of women empowerment will be defeated.

While women clamour for reservations it is interesting to note that even in states where women voters are majority, women candidates fail to garner people’s (women’s) votes. Why is the question which needs a credible answer.

Women of Mizoram are active in social life, and social engineering. But when it comes to politics they are unwilling to take up the job. A few who have dared to jump into the electoral fray faced defeat which has further demoralized the women.

The defeat of all nine women candidates who contested in the last 2 December 2008 assembly polls is surprising and heart breaking given the fact that women voters outnumber men in Mizoram by 6,644. Of the total 6,11,124 voters, 3,08,884 were women and 3,02,240 men, according to the latest electoral rolls. This should have been an indication of political prowess and empowerment of women in this hilly state where women are treated at par with their male counterparts. But when it is an electoral matter, it ain’t be so.

Look at the statistics. Women had even outnumbered men voters by 3,816 in the 2003 Assembly polls but none of the six women candidates who contested could win. The only good thing last year was the slight increase in the number of women candidates (nine) from six in 2003. But still nine out of total 206 candidates is not very encouraging.

Since Mizoram became a Union Territory in 1972, there have been only three women legislators - Thanmawii of People's Conference (1978 and 1979), K. Thansiami of People's Conference (1979) and Lalhlimpui of MNF (1987). Of them, only Lalhlimpui became a minister (minister of state for social welfare in Laldenga ministry). Since then no woman could occupy a seat in the state legislature.

In 2008, Lalhlimpui – the only woman who became a minister - was nominated by the MNF from Hrangturzo constituency in Serchhip district but she lost. She came third (3,222 votes) behind Lalthansanga of Mizoram People's Conference who won the seat with 4,431 votes and Ronald Sapatlau of Congress (3,979 votes).

Zothankimi was the only woman candidate fielded by the Congress party. She was pitted against political heavyweights like Brig. T. Sailo, a former chief minister and Laruatkima of the then ruling Mizo National Front from Aizawl West- II Assembly constituency. In Aizawl West-II, women voters outnumbered their male counterparts but yet Zothankimi lost the election.

Hence, it is matter of great concern as to why women candidates do not get the mandate. The defeat of women candidates even in constituencies where women voters are more than men, poses serious questions which haven’t been answered. The Women Reservation Bill will come handy for the women aspirants in Mizoram but I am sad that women in Mizoram have not been able to take advantage of their numerical strength at the ballot box, which is the most potential weapon in a democracy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What irritate me most in Delhi

By- Paritosh Chakma
(Rewritten on 10 June 2009)

New Delhi: What irritate me in Delhi most are two things: (1) Ignorance about my native state, Mizoram, and (2) ignorance and insensitivity towards my physical attributes.

1. Ignorance about Mizoram

The North East people’s struggle as they land in Delhi is more of cultural. This stems partly from the fact that most people here even do not know the map of North East India. They are totally ignorant about "peaceful" states like Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. People know Assam and to some extent have heard of Nagaland because of the bloody insurgencies there. But Mizoram is a peaceful state and in terms of business it is not a state where you can earn in billions, so who cares to know the profile of this tiny state, except perhaps for those who are eyeing the civil services.

When we (Mizos, Chakmas and other ethnic groups) come to study outside Mizoram we carry the pride of Mizoram; we represent Mizoram. Hence we are like a community. I feel most irritated when I am asked where Mizoram is and I am required to explain the north east in the map of India.

Recently, I took an auto-rickshaw to go to a book stall. First the driver looked at me in a curious way which made me conscious of my “different look”. After five-minute drive, he asked me in Hindi:
“Are you from Nepal?”
“No”, I replied. “From Mizoram”
“Where is it, is it in Nepal?” – Another usual question
Not surprised, I replied – “No”. “In the North East. Haven’t you heard of Mizoram?” I wanted to know.
I know it is in Nepal”, he tried to outplay me.
Irritated, I retorted at him - “Could be, because the entire India is in Nepal
It cannot be so. India is bigger than Nepal
If Mizoram, which is in India, is in Nepal according to you, then India must be inside Nepal” – I mocked at him. He became amused.

Is Mizoram your village name?” He meekly asked me, almost surrendering to my arrogance.

“Mizoram is not a village. It is one of the 28 states of India. It is much bigger than Delhi” – I explained.

There were a few minutes of silence.

Then I asked, “Do you know Assam?
“Yes, it is near Bhutan”, he said.

The man who knows Bhutan is ignorant about a part of his own country.

Later on, in the course of our conversion, he told me that he had completed his Class XII but due to bad circumstances he had to quit studies and took to driving auto for a living. I took pity on his inability to pursue higher education but certainly could not pardon him for his ignorance about my state, Mizoram after studying up to Class XII. Why, in my Class III standards, we were were required to memorise the capitals of all the 25 states (at that time) of India and were punished by our Geography teacher for our inability to correctly name them.

The ignorance of North Eastern states is so much so that even the Honourable Members of Parliament/ Council of Ministers are said to be oblivious of these states. Shri Swaraj Kaushal, who was governor of Mizoram from 8 February 1990 to 9 February 1993, during a Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) debate on 17 May 2000 made the following statement -

"Much has been said about the ignorance of the North-East. I remember when I was the Governor I used to visit Delhi. I am very sorry to share with this House that some of the Ministers used to ask me--I was the Governor of Mizoram--"how was Mr.Gegon Apang?", little realising that Mr. Gegong Apang was the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh. Sometimes, I was told that I was staying at a beautiful place called Shillong. Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya and I was the Governor of Mizoram."

He stated further, “I will find it very commendable if people in authority, people who are entrusted with the responsibility of deciding matters for the North- East, know the names of seven States, alongwith their Capitals and can name the Chief Ministers of those States. …….. How many of us know as to where the Polo started? Who gave a boost to Polo? We find princes playing it. It was Manipur. The NCERT books are silent on the North- East. ……………. it will be worth examining as to how many Ministers have visited the North- East during the last three, four or five years. I find them paying only helicopter visit. They visit the helipad and they believe that they have visited the States.

(2) My physical attributes

The people of North East India have different set of physical attributes in comparison to the mainland Indians. To the mainland Indians we look like Chinese or Japanese or Thais or Korean or even Nepalese; but certainly not like "Indians".

This world is like a garden with variety of flowers. Diverse cultures, religions, languages, nationalities, colours, sex identities, ethnic origin and decent. Hence, in a harmonious existence this world would look like a beautiful garden of paradise. But we often do not respect the differences, the diversity.

To the people of North East India, who come to cities like Delhi for studies or jobs, mongoloid features are object for discrimination by the mainland Indians who like to refer themselves as “mainstream people”. I had thought Delhi being the capital of India should be more receptive and people are ahead of their times.

I still remember the day when I first went to the Delhi University (South Campus) to collect admission form in 2003. I was suppose to collect form for Masters degree. But as I was not aware of anything about the admission process and so nervous with none around whom I know, to help me, it was only after the officer at the counter stamped the backside of my ST certificate that I came to know I was in the wrong counter and at wrong time. Actually the admission process for the post-graduate courses did not start and I had collected ST registration form for a graduation course. Oh my God. It is like Ripley's believe it or not.

The entire fault was also not mine, actually. Before taking the form, I had repeatedly asked the officer to confirm whether I was collecting a registration form for Master degree course. Certainly, he saw my face and was in no mood to help. “All forms are available here”, he bluntly replied and asked my ST certificate. He put a stump on the back of it.

When I pointed out the mistake after reading the form, he took back my ST certificate and crossed the stamp with so heavy hand that my ST certificate still bears the ugly cross mark whose imprints are visible from the front. Whenever, I did a photocopy of my tribal certificate, cross mark appeared which looked ugly but fortunately did not create hurdle anywhere.

As I cleared the MA (English) entrance test I had to taste the bitter pill of discrimination first hand in the college again. As I went to the admission counter of the college, I spoke in English to enquire about the procedures. The person sitting at the counter stared at my face and roared at me - “Angres ke baacchee” (Son of Englishman), and he asked me to speak in Hindi. Luckily for me, I had taken Hindi subject in Class X and scored handsomely – above 60 in the board exam.

Another day, I was taking an evening walk near a park where some big boys were playing volleyball at a corner. It so happened that the ball jumped over the fence as I was passing by. Immediately, one of the youths came to the fence and yelled at me “Hei chinki, ball denaa” (pass the ball to me). I took offence being called a "chinki" whose meaning I still do not understand but I heard his friend telling him not to call such names. I decided to pass the ball over the fence.

Don't we have right to be different? Then why are we made fun of?

Certainly, some changes should be made in the school curriculum to make the children more aware about India’s geography and cultures and to respect other's cultures. Unfortunately, our education system is more teaching-based where how to crack certain examination is the ultimate aim. It should be more enquiry-based.

It is not only schools to be blamed, even various TV channels often run advertisements endorsing racism. For example, see the “Amway” company’s ad wherein a flat-nosed boy is shown begging “muje maaf koro” (forgive me) with folded hands while a dirty car and a water bucket are beside him. It appears that the boy (could be portrayed as one of those Nepali labourers who are engaged in cleaning people’s cars in Delhi residential colonies) has committed some serious mistake and was therefore asking for forgiveness.

The question which needs some credible answers is why is that a flat-nosed, mongoloid featured boy has been shown in such poor taste in the ad?

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.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Human rights situation in Mizoram during 2008

[The following is the "Mizoram" chapter in "2009 India Human Rights Report" brought out by Asian Centre for Human Rights, an NGO having Special Consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). ACHR is the only human rights organization to publish Annual Report on Indian states' human rights records. The report on Mizoram may not be exhaustive one but nonetheless, it gives an insight into the realities. The footnotes have been omitted. To read the full India report, go to http://www.achrweb.org/reports/india/AR09/AR09.pdf ]

Mizoram

I. Overview

The ruling Mizo National Front (MNF) government failed to adequately address very high levels of human rights violations against the state’s minorities including religious, ethnic and linguistic communities. Ethnic minorities faced systematic discrimination in employment, accessing basic healthcare, education and development.

The Ministry of Home Affairs provided significant development assistance to Mizoram under the Border Area Development Programme to develop the areas near the international borders. ACHR visited the target areas and there is, at best, very limited development along the Mizoram-Bangladesh international border areas inhabited by the Chakma tribals who are minorities in the state.

The state government failed to provide a rehabilitation plan for the over 35,000 Chakma tribals facing imminent displacement from 49 villages due to the ongoing India-Bangladesh border fencing project. The Mizoram government took a bizarre stance on the issue stating that it did not consider people who were fenced onto the Bangladesh side to be “displaced”.

On 1 October 2007, Rev Chanchinmawia, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church Synod of Mizoram, was found dead. His body, with injuries caused by sharp and pointed weapons, was found at his Khatla Pastor’s official residence, Aizawl. However, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the state police concluded that he had committed suicide. While demanding a re-investigation, a human rights watchdog People’s Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram (PRISM) on 27 May 2008 alleged that “The fact that Revd Chanchinmawia had received death threat mails several times due to his outright criticism of the Government, the circumstances of his death, the manner of the police investigation and the missing of the weapon of crime (found near the pastor’s body) indicated that his murder had been meticulously planned”. Public outcry forced the state government to hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in August 2008.

There were some positive steps taken by the state government. On 1 June 2008 the state
Cabinet approved the government’s plan of separation of judiciary from the executive. In February 2008, Mizoram’s Director General of Police, Lalrokhuma Pachuau claimed that the state had the highest crime detection rate in the country. Mizoram’s crime detection rate increased from 93% in 2006 to 96.55% in 2007.

II. Violations of International Humanitarian Law by the AOGs

Insurgency related violence continued albeit at lower levels than in other North Eastern states.

On 2 September 2008, four Mizoram Armed Police (MAP) personnel including a Sub Inspector were killed in an ambush by the AOG, Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) near Saipum in Kolasib district. The security personnel were carrying monthly salaries and rations for their colleagues guarding the Serlui hydel power complex when they came under attack. Four policemen died on the spot and three were injured. While claiming responsibility for the attack the Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) warned of more attacks in the future.

III. Judiciary and administration of justice

In his budget speech for 2008-09 in the State Assembly on 13 March 2008, Chief Minister Zoramthanga announced that “We have completed the process of separation of Judiciary from the Executive by absorption and induction of the existing Judicial Officers into the Mizoram Judicial Service. Excluding the Autonomous District Council areas, Civil Courts have been established during the current year. It is the commitment of my Government that efficient functioning of the Judiciary for smooth administration of justice will always be ensured”.

On 1 June 2008, the State cabinet approved the separation of judiciary from the executive. The Cabinet’s decision followed a dialogue between Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga and Justice J Chalameshwar, Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court in Aizawl on 17 May 2008. The Cabinet also approved the Mizoram Judicial Service (Amendment) Rules. The separation of judiciary would also apply to the three Autonomous District Councils - Lai, Mara and Chakma which have some degree of autonomy under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

IV. Violations of the rights of women and children

On 20 March 2008, the government of Mizoram re-constituted the Mizoram State Commission for Women for a period of three years with the Chairpersonship of Mrs Rozami, President of the Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (MHIP), the apex body of the Mizo women in the state.

In 2007, 151 cases of crimes against women were reported from Mizoram, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) under the Ministry of Home Affairs. These included 83 cases of rape, 66 cases of molestation and two cases of cruelty by husband and relatives.

The NCRB also reported 64 cases of crimes against children in 2007. These included 60 cases of rape, three cases of murder, and one case of “other crime”. Mizoram’s child mortality increased during 2007-08.

At least 608 children died during 2007-08 as compared to 258 during the previous year, according to Health and Family Welfare Department, government of Mizoram. Yet, many other cases went unrecorded, including in the Chakma-dominated areas along the Mizoram-Bangladesh borders. In capital Aizawl alone, the National Domestic Workers Movement Welfare Trust (NDWMWT) identified 1,832 domestic workers from 2005 to 2007 where Myanmarese migrants constitute 35.2 per cent. The Chin League of Women claimed that there were more than 3,000 Myanmarese migrant girls working as domestic helps in Aizawl.

Domestic helps were subjected to sexual and other forms of abuse. On 3 June 2008, the police arrested an employer following a complaint lodged by Mizoram unit of the NDWMWT with the Bawngkawn police station in Aizawl on behalf of a 16-year-old Myanmarese migrant girl, who was allegedly molested by her employer on 30 May 2008.

V. The Bru crisis

The state government failed to repatriate a single Bru internally displaced person (IDP) from Tripura by the end of 2008. The State failed to address the appalling conditions of the tribal Bru people living in relief camps in Tripura. Following a complaint filed by Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN), a tribal rights NGO, against the non-inclusion of 7,204 Bru internally displaced children in Tripura, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on 8-9 September 2008 visited the relief camps in Tripura. The members of the NCPCR “were appalled by the sub human conditions under which the families had to survive…. There was none or little, if any, registration of births and deaths, marginal immunisation, no health facilities or primary health centres, no functional schools, no safe drinking water, poor sanitation and inadequate rations”. At least 30 Bru children died in the relief camps due to malnutrition and disease in August 2008 alone. The NCPCR made several recommendations to improve the conditions of the internally displaced children including the Brus sheltered in Tripura state.

A joint survey by AITPN and Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples Forum reportedly found that 7,204 Bru tribal children had not been included in the relief ration cards which made them ineligible for basic relief like 225 gm rice, dal, and cash of Rs 1.45 per day, clothes and other facilities given by the Ministry of Home Affairs, government of India through the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, government of Tripura. The adult Brus had to share the food quota and other facilities with their children.

Only 8,061 Bru IDPs were enlisted in the Mizoram voters’ list. Of them 6,479 persons who had been issued electoral photo identity cards (EPICs) were able to cast their votes in the last State Assembly elections held on 2 December 2008 through postal ballot.

VI. The status of minorities

The state government of Mizoram failed to address systematic discrimination against minorities – ethnic, linguistic and religious who constituted 27% of the state’s populations. Minorities complained of systematic discrimination in employment, accessing healthcare, education and development.

The Mizoram Accord of 1986 guarantees that “The rights and privileges of the minorities in Mizoram as envisaged in the constitution shall continue to be preserved and protected and their social and economic advancement shall be ensured.” The state government failed to honor these commitments.

In 1972, Chakmas, Maras and Lais were granted an Autonomous District Council (ADC) each in southern part of Mizoram. On 13 February 2008, during a visit to the state Mani Shankar Aiyar, Minister for Development of the North Eastern Region said he was shocked at the conditions in these ADCs. He told a gathering in Aizawl - ‘’It appears that only a very small proportion of funds have reached these people who constitute 15 per cent of the state’s population. I can now understand why the minorities are demanding Union Territory status. Mizoram should remain one, but it can remain united only when all the sections of the people feel that they are equally treated”.

Minorities excluded from the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) had to face more discrimination and neglect. In April 2008, ACHR visited the Mizoram-Bangladesh border areas in Mamit and Lunglei districts which are predominantly inhabited by Chakma tribals.

These areas are supposed to benefit from the very large sums of development assistance provided by Central government. The state government received Central funds under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) for the development and welfare of the people living near the international borders (with Bangladesh and Myanmar). The main objective of the programme is to meet the special developmental needs of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the International border. The schemes/ works under BADP include construction/maintenance of roads, water supply, education, sports, filling gaps in infrastructure, security, organisation of early childhood care and education centre, education for physically handicapped and backward sections, etc. Preference is given to the villages/habitations which are closer to the border line. The Ministry of Home Affairs released Rs 1556 lakhs (10 lakhs = 1 million) during 2004-05, Rs 903.48lakhs during 2005-06, Rs 2262 lakhs during 2006-07 and Rs 2086 lakhs during 2007-08 to Mizoram under BADP. While Mizoram utilized all the funds released during 2004-05 to 2005-06, it failed to utilize Rs 991.83 lakhs during 2006-07.

During its mission ACHR found very limited evidence of development activities. The state government failed to provide Chakmas access to basic healthcare facilities. Most villages had no health care at all. In the absence of state provision villagers were forced to live at the mercy of “ojhas” (traditional herbal doctors) as they could not afford to go to hospitals in towns (like Aizawl or Lunglei) for treatment.

Child mortality rates were very high but these went unreported or undocumented. A government registrar of Births and Deaths in a Chakma village told ACHR that in a year only two or three death certificates were issued, although the infant mortality rate was quite high in the border areas. The villagers said over 100 Chakma children died every year in the border villages but these were not documented given the absence of proper mechanism.

Most villages inhabited by Chakmas along the Mizoram-Bangladesh border had no education provision. The Sarva Shiksha Abiyan (SSA) provided no benefit to Chakmas except raising the enrolment rate.

Non-local Mizo teachers were appointed in SSA schools in Chakma areas which created problems. These non-local teachers did not stay in the Chakma villages and were unable to teach the Chakma children who did not understand the Mizo language. Chakmas also faced discrimination in employment. The state’s Recruitment Rules of various government departments have made it necessary for a candidate (including a linguistic minority) to have studied (and passed) Mizo subject up to Middle School level to be eligible for government jobs. This is clearly in contravention to Article 16 (1) of the Indian Constitution which provides for “equality of opportunity” in matters of employment or appointment. The Mizoram government also failed to introduce the Mizo language subject in the schools in Chakma inhabited areas. Since Chakmas often did not study Mizo subject in schools, they faced regular discrimination in getting government jobs under state government. As a result, Chakmas’ representation in government services in Mizoram remained very negligible.

VII. Status of internally displaced persons

A total of 35,438 Chakma tribals from 5,790 families in 49 villages in western and south-western part of Mizoram faced imminent displacement due to the ongoing India-Bangladesh fencing project. Many of the victims had not been paid compensation. By the end of 2008 neither the Central government nor the state government of Mizoram had made public any resettlement and rehabilitation package for the fencing victims.

On 10 March 2008, Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN) filed a complaint with the NHRC against denial of timely compensation to the affected people. As expected, the state government of Mizoram submitted a standard reply: it denied that there was any delay in disbursement of compensation. What was more worrying was the fact that the government of Mizoram refused to acknowledge the victims as “displaced” although their homes and lands have fallen outside the fencing line. But the state government stated that they were not displaced as the “the Fencing Line is not the boundary of Indo-Bangladesh Border”.

The state government further stated that the villagers were to choose whether to stay outside the fencing line or to shift into India’s side of territory. This policy is fatally flawed. The border fencing is primarily being erected for national security and hence, if the victims are allowed to stay outside the fencing, they would be living at the mercy of the Bangladeshis and anti-India forces. Even the then Mizoram Chief Secretary Haukhum Hauzel stated in April 2008 that the Mizoram villagers who fell outside the fencing line feared for their security. He further stated that in Bindiasora village, about 80 families fell outside the border and the villagers were prevented by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) from getting sand from the river which used to be their main source of income.

In another case of displacement, the 12-MW Serlui B Hydel project was being constructed across the Serlui river near Bilkhawthlir village in Kolasib district. Upon completion of the project, Builum village would be submerged losing about 53 kms of cultivable land and 79 houses. Many villagers were shifted to Bawktlang village under Kolasib district but some 30 families refused to vacate their houses until the Mizoram government paid full compensation. The state government claimed that “adequate compensation and rehabilitation schemes have been provided” to the displaced people.

VIII. Status of refugees

There were more than 60,000 Myanmarese nationals living in Mizoram as “illegal migrants” because the government did not recognize them as “refugees”. On 1 April 2008, Mizoram Home Minister Tawnluia stated in the State Assembly that 43 Myanmarese nationals and 22 Bangladeshis who entered the state illegally were arrested and deported to their respective countries during 2007-2008. Following a brawl between the local Mizos and Myanmarese refugees at Tanhril village, about 20 km north of Aizawl, the Myanmarese refugees were served a “quit notice” asking them to leave the village by 4 October 2008.

The brawl reportedly took place after some Myanmarese refugees allegedly teased some
Mizo girls from the village while they were taking bath. But instead of taking action against the specific accused as per law, all the refugees were asked to leave. The decision was reportedly taken in a joint meeting of Young Mizo Association (YMA), Tanhril village council, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (women organisation) and Mizo Upa Pawl (elders’ organization). At least 40 Myanmarese refugees reportedly left Tanhril village due to fear of attacks by the locals following the “quit notice”.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Reply to Henry Vangchhia

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.

H.Vangchhia said...
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.

Best,

Paritosh Chakma