Friday, July 24, 2009

Will the Chakmas survive in Mizoram?

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?” This article is being published in a series.]

Part-I

“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.

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 lightening 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]

(Read the consolidated article at http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/08/will-chakmas-survive-in-mizoram.html )

Footnote:
[1]. Sneha Kumar Chakma's memorandum to CHADIGANG CONFERERNCE - Amsterdam 10 - 11 October 1986

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mizoram: Brutal torture kills a 13-year-old Mizo boy in a Children's Home

By Paritosh Chakma

I learned with horror and pain that a Mizo boy identified as Lalnunpuia, son of Rinsanga of Chaltlang Lily in Aizawl, was on last July 13 tortured to death by the caretakers at Herald for Christ’s Children Home at Lungleng, about 15 kms north of Aizawl. The only fault of the ill-fated child, who was barely 13 years, was that he had allegedly ragged another boy junior to him. The deceased was accused of being indiscipline and hence, "punished" by the workers of the Home. But he was beaten up so brutally and inhumanly that he died hours later in the same day.

As it happened every time someone was beaten to death, the authorities of the Herald for Christ’s Children Home tried to cover up the incident and defend the accused. The Home’s authorities initially stated that the child had died of asthma and heart problem. But the photographs published in a local newspaper “The Aizawl Post” dated 16th July 2009 indicate brutal torture on the boy. This concurs with the claim of the boy’s parents that he had been tortured to death.

The Herald for Christ’s Children Home is a recognized intitution under the Social Welfare Department of the government of Mizoram. The act of torture to the point of death constitutes the most serious violation of human rights. The government of Mizoram must take adequate measures to arrest the perpetrators and they must be brought to justice, whoever they are and whatever connections they have, if any, with higher authorities including, of course, politicians.

The death of Lalnunpuia should also serve as a wake up call for the government of Mizoram which should immediately activate all its mechanisms to monitor the conditions of all such Homes/detention centres wherever children are being given shelter/detained - be they private or government-run. It is the duty of the State to protect the rights of every child.

Article 191(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that "States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child."

During investigation/monitoring by officials, no leniency must be shown to the concerned officials of the Homes/detention centres if any failings on the part of the insitutition is noticed. Any inadequacies must be immediately addressed; every worker or official of such Homes/ detention centres must be held accountable for his or her actions of ill treatment against any child. Any complaint or allegation must be promptly investigated and its findings made public along with the action taken report. Only this will help prevent further abuse of children or deaths of children in Children's Home.

Every child has his/her rights. Let every child bloom to the fullest and for that matter, he or she be allowed to grow in an environment free from torture or torturous conditions.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NHRC criticized

New Delhi based Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) in a recent report analyzed the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission. ACHR has been critical of NHRC in areas where the NHRC failed to provide justice to the victims while adjudicating their complaints. In its report “ACHR’s action against torture and other forms of human rights violations in India”, the ACHR gives several instances in which the NHRC, which is a civil court, allegedly dismissed the cases simply on the basis of the reports received from the concerned authorities but without hearing the complainants. This forced ACHR to file 29 writ petitions against the NHRC in the Delhi High Court for the Commission's "violations of the principles of natural justice". See ACHR's press release: http://www.achrweb.org/press/2009/IND0309.html

In an interview, the director of ACHR Mr Suhas Chakma told Tehelka, “India has an abysmal human rights record. Even over the span of a decade the degree of violations has remained static simply because you cannot prosecute yet for human rights violations and still need the approval of the government. How can such a policy inculcate a fear of law?

Read the full report “ACHR’s action against torture and other forms of human rights violations in India” here:http://www.achrweb.org/impact/achr-impact2009.pdf

Read Tehelka’s wonderful article “See no evil, hear no evil” regarding the same at: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main42.asp?filename=Ws180709Torture_in_India.asp

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Changed World

(A poem byParitosh Chakma)

When I was a child
And visited my grandparents’ house
Twenty miles away
Down the river - winding and mild:
I found the pebbles
On the river beds
so beautiful,
The songs of the birds
so soothing,
And, the foams that danced on the tiny waves
so mystic.

My mind travelled in wonderlands
On the wings of the wind,
So thrilling was the splash of the oar
That my heart did soar -
For, every splash it made
Took me nearer to grandparents’ house.

Now, twenty years later,
I still love to visit my grandparents’ house
I still love the birds, the pebbles and the river;
Only no longer I hear birds sing carefree,
Nor do the foams dance on the waves
For me
The pebbles no longer attract me
During my journey to grandparents’ house
Twenty miles away
Down the river.

I know why birds can’t sing carefree songs, or
Waves can’t dance or pebbles won’t silently lie.
They see and feel the changed world too!
The river silently flows -
But there’s sadness and anger in her heart
At the sufferings of the people who live on her lap.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Lalthanhawla's Singapore Bomb On Racism" By Subir Bhaumik


To go to source, click the link: http://subirbhowmikscolumn.blogspot.com/2009/06/subir-bhowmik-returned-from-europe.html

(Subir Bhaumik is the BBC's East India Correspondent and a known Northeast India specialist)
Friday, June 26, 2009

Did Mizoram chief minister Pu Lalthanhawla cross his Laxmanrekha at Singapore this month when he spoke at the the local Waterweek festival ? I would imagine, the answer is yes and no. We have no transcript of his speech - or a written copy, so Lalthanhawla can always say he was misquoted by the media - the usual escape route for publicity-seeking politician who shoot their mouth a bit too far. But Indian diplomats in Singapore do confirm that much that has been attributed to Lalthanhawla was actualkly said by him. The Mizoram chief minister, whose Congress party staged a grand comeback by sweeping the state assembly polls this year, said three things, according to the diplomats who were present. He said people from Mizoram and Northeast were victim of discrimination elsewhere in India, that people elsewhere in India did not even think they were Indians and that he was as much an Indian as anybody else in this country. He somewhat overstepped his limits when he used the word "racial discrimination" to describe the troubles people from Northeast faced elsewhere in India.

I see nothing really wrong with his remarks. It is true most of our Mongoloid-looking brothers and sisters are not seen as "proper Indians" elsewhere in India. Many in Delhi or Bombay or down south would mistake them for being Nepalis or Chinese. They also face a lot of trouble in places like Delhi, where a large number of Northeastern girls have been raped, molested or taken advantage of. Their distinct and somewhat westernised lifestyle and clothes often give our "mainland" brothers the wrong impression - that they are easy to have. And they face this because they are seen as different. It is a lot of ignorance and quite a lot of bias that goes to create such a situation. Even Shahrukh Khan understood this problem when he potrayed the trouble faced by the two tribal girls from Manipur in his world-beating Indian woman hockey team - initially these two girls were told by the heavy and huge Punjabi defender that they should have learnt Punjabi before they came to Delhi.

The neglect of Northeast by successive Indian government is further compound by the way the people of mainland India look at the region. So Lalthanhawla clearly spoke the truth when he said that he was seen as a Nepali down south and that he was as much Indian as anybody else. What he perhaops did not say but could well have is that he had to pay the price of being an Indian - specially as a Congressman in the days of the MNF separatist insurgency when Mizos loyal to India were killed or harassed.

But Lalthanhawla made the mistake of context. He said all he did before an international audience and in the context of the racist attacks on Indian students in Australia.The Australians deserve the strongest condemnation for what is happening in that country and it is not expected that a senior Indian politician, wherever he comes from, will help them get off the hook by an off-the-cuff remark. Lalthanhawla and many, many of his Mizo brothers, one must remember , are beneficiarcies of the Indian system. He has been the chief minister and scores of Mizos now man important positions in Indian bureaucracy, police and other public services and the armed forces.

But I have a much bigger criticism to make. Lalthanhawla should look within his own society in Mizoram to see how racism pervades his own state. The Mizos fought India for twenty years to get freedom. They finally settled for a separate state. But look at the way they treat their own minorities - the Chakmas, the Brus and the rest.

That is what late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi reminded MNF chief Laldenga in 1987 when Laldenga pushed for abolition of the Chakma district council. "If you Mizos want justice from India, give justice to your own minorities, the Chakmas," Rajiv Gandhi reminded Laldenga.
Look at what is happening to the nearly 30000 Brus (Reangs) who have been driven out of Mizoram by the likes of the Youngnmen Christian Association ["Young Mizo Association" - editor]- for nearly twelve years, successive Mizoram governments have refused to take them back saying they were not Mizoram residents.

That is a big lie. I was in Tripura and witnessed personally the first exodus of the Brus when they first started fleeing West Mizoram into Tripura's Kanchanpur area in October 1997. I know for a fact that most of these Brus are long term residents of Mizoram. But Lalthanhawla's predecessor Zoramthanga clearly told me in a BBC interview in 2002 - "These Brus are Reangs, they are from Tripura, they have their Rajas, they are not Mizos.

Ofcourse they are not Mizos. But who said all residents of Mizoram have to be Mizos. They are Lais, the Maras, the Chakmas, the Brus and the Chins in Mizoram - they are not Mizos but they are residents of Mizoram. No Mizo political party has any sympathy for them. All Mizo political leaders behave as if these minorities dont deserve even the right to stay in Mizoram. Government employees there can strike off the name of even a former Chakma minister of Mizoram government S.P.Dewan from the voter's list.

The minority grievances against Mizo racist domination gave way to greater unity among themselves and their organisation even demanded the creation of a Union territory in South Mizoram by uniting the Pawi, Lakher and Chakma district council. So Pu Lalthanhawla, before he started blaming India for not doing justice to Northeast, should get his act together on the minority issue and give justice to the Chakmas, brus and the rest of the non-Mizo minorities. Charity, Pu Lalthanhawla, begins at home. Take back the Brus from Tripura and give them back their lost homes before you blame Indians for "racial discrimination" against Mizos or Northeasterns. Atleast mainland Indian people can be blamed for ignorance when they think you are Nepali . But Mizos know their minority - and the chief minister should take the lead in giving them justice if he feels so strongly about racial equality.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Language discrimination in Mizoram: see the proof




I am writing as follow up of my previous post “Brazen violations of the rights of the linguistic minorities in Mizoram”. I have consistently stated that the state of Mizoram discriminates against the linguistic minorities, including in employment.

The state of Mizoram has framed such Recruitment Rules which makes Mizo (the state official language) to be studied up to Middle School level , i.e. Class VII for a candidate to be eligible for jobs. (For the list of Recruitment Rules see, http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2009/05/outright-discrimination-against-chakmas.html

The state of Mizoram confirmed to the National Commissioner Linguistic Minority, a constitutional body to look after the affairs of the linguistic minorities in India, that “knowledge of Mizo is a pre requisite for recruitment” (see the 41st Report of the Commissioner Linguistic Minorities). The Linguistic Commissioner remarked that -“In such a case there s no chance for linguistic minorities to get Government jobs." It partly explains as to why the representation of non-Mizos like Chakmas and Reangs in government departments is so negligible.

Linguistic minorities in India have been given several important safeguards, one of them being:
“No insistence upon knowledge of State’s Official Language at the time of recruitment"
But this safeguard is being willfully violated by the state of Mizoram.

Many of you could think or say that I am talking nonsense. That is why this time I won’t write much but let the proof I am attaching to do the talk. Click the images

In February 2008, an examination was held by government of Mizoram for selection of primary Hindi teachers. In this very exam, 50% of the questions were in fact set in Mizo language, which, as any sane individual will admit, the linguistic minorities such as Chakmas, Nepalis or Bengalis or Gorkhas or Reangs, who are citizens of Mizoram, will find difficult, if not impossible, to answer. This is against the fundamental right to equality and non-discrimination in state employment.

See for yourself the question paper (in two pages)