Friday, December 24, 2010

Thousands of tribals starving in Mizoram, claims NGO



Aizawl, Dec 23, (IANS) :

Over 4,000 Chakma tribal people in Mizoram have been starving for the past few weeks, a non-governmental organisation said Thursday.

"Over 800 Chakma tribal families comprising over 4,000 men, women and children in four villages in Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) areas of southern Mizoram have been starving for several weeks," New Delhi based Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF) said in a letter to the Mizoram government.

MCDF president Hemanta Larma said: "No food grain under the Public Distribution System (PDS) have been supplied to the AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) and BPL (Below Poverty Line) card holders since October."

"People belonging to APL (Above Poverty Line) have got their quota of rice and other materials till Nov 26, making clear that the richer have been given more importance than the poor and poorest families," the petition said.

It was submitted to Mizoram Chief Secretary Pu Van Hela Pachuau and deputy commissioner of Lawngtlai district.

The letter added that the failure of the state government to ensure food security and non-supply of food grain under PDS were direct violations of the Supreme Court orders on the Right to Food case and Article 21 of the Indian constitution.

Mizoram government officials have also admitted about the severe food crisis in Lawngtlai and other districts.

Mizoram Chief Secretary also held a meeting with Union Cabinet Secretary K.M.  Chandrasekhar earlier this month in New Delhi demanding urgent supply of food grain.

The central government has been supplying food grain, cooking gas, fertilisers and other essentials to northeastern states.

Inadequate railway service to the mountainous region is the main bottleneck in maintaining uninterrupted supply of food grain and other essentials.

A senior Mizoram government official told reporters that six out of the state's eight districts are facing a severe shortage of food grain and other essentials.

"The Mizoram chief secretary, during his meeting with the union cabinet secretary, has suggested six proposals, including building of adequate numbers of godowns, to overcome the recurring problem," he said.

Occasional road blockades by local organisations and disruption of railway services due to heavy rains during monsoon have also contributed to such shortages in Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and southern and western Assam.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No rehabilitation yet for Mizoram's 35,000 fencing victims

Merinews.com, 28 September 2010, http://www.merinews.com/article/no-rehabilitation-yet-for-mizorams-35000-fencing-victims/15831573.shtml


By Paritosh Chakma

ON SEPTEMBER 27, 2010, Mizoram Home Minister R Lalzirliana informed the State Assembly that over 35,000 people from 45 villages are required to be relocated inside the fence due to the India-Bangladesh border fencing in Mizoram.

He said this while replying to a question from opposition Mara Democratic Front (MDF) MLA, P P Thawlla. Participating in the discussion, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said that the state government had approached the Centre many times but each time received the same reply: “We have not done any relocation in other states.”

This is the first time that the issue of rehabilitation for the border fencing victims was discussed in the Mizoram Assembly. There has been a series of protests by the victims over the issues of compensation and rehabilitation but there has been no word from the Centre regarding rehabilitation inside the fence.

Earlier in a RTI reply dated 16th December 2009 the Ministry of Home Affairs (Border Management) has stated that “Neither this Ministry has prepared any plan for rehabilitation nor any proposal has been received in this Ministry from Govt. of Mizoram”.

The move to shift the people came when the Indian government has decided to fence India's 4,095 km border with Bangladesh running through West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram so as to curb infiltration, smuggling, trans-border movement of militants and other anti-national activities.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mizoram's Dampa tiger reserve to evict 227 tribal families

By Paritosh Chakma

(Merinews, 25th September 2010,
http://www.merinews.com/article/mizorams-dampa-tiger-reserve-to-evict-227-tribal-families/15830777.shtml )

THE EXTENSION of Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mamit district in western belt of Mizoram is going to displace as many as 227 tribal families – all belonging to Chakma community from Andermanik village. All these are poor people without livelihood, except for Jhum cultivation upon which the forest officials have imposed restrictions. For the past one year, there has been no cultivation due to fear of the long hand of the law.


Incidentally, these villagers or their ancestors had been evicted once from the Dampa Tiger Reserve area in 1989 and resettled by the state government outside the DTR area in the present Andermanik village. However, all in the name of tiger protection, the forest department is all set to evict them once again.

As per the “Revised Guidelines for the Ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger” (February 2008) of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, the Andermanik villagers have been offered two options: Option I – Take the entire package amount (Rs. 10 lakhs per family) and the Forest Department will not be involved in any rehabilitation / relocation process . Option II – The Forest Department will carry out relocation / rehabilitation of village from the tiger reserve.

The money being offered is lucrative – Rs 10 lakhs per family, that is a total of Rs 22,70,00,000 (Twenty Two Crores Seventy Lakhs) for the entire village. But thanks to the absolute lack of transparency and secretive attitudes of the officials, the villagers have been divided into supporters of Option I and Option II.

If the villagers opt for Option I, they take Rs 10 lakh per family but need to find their own homes – somewhere, somehow (so says the Guideline as per the interpretation of the officials). The officials also interpreted to them that their Village Council would be dissolved (Andermanik is a full-fledged Village Council/Court). The villagers are strongly opposed to the dissolution of their Village Council.

In case of option II, the following package is proposed, at the rate of Rs. 10 lakhs per family: Agriculture land procurement (2 hectare) and development – 35% of the total package; Settlement of rights – 30%, Homestead land and house construction – 20%, Incentive – 5%, and Community facilities – 10% The District Commissioner of Mamit has allegedly told the village leaders in no uncertain terms that each family would be getting not more than Rs 2 lakhs if they opt for Option II. The rest (i.e. Rs 8 lakh from each family) would be used by the state government to provide land title, develop their lands, and create infrastructure in the new village site. The villagers feel they are being cheated.

The villagers have been completely kept in the dark about the land acquisition and relocation/rehabilitation. This displacement process absolutely lacks transparency; so much so that the villagers do not know about the fate of government servants such as teachers! The teachers fear that they may lose their jobs after relocation.

The local MLA and Deputy Speaker, John Rotluangliana has promised the Andermanik villagers a new life in a “model village”. But few are ready to buy his assurance. How can they forget so soon that in 1989 eviction they had received only Rs 5000 or so out of the promised Rs 1 lakh per family? No one knows where the money had gone. The politicians had promised everything. But even today the Andermanik village has no road connectivity and no health care centre. The villagers have to track hostile terrains to have access to PDS food grain or medicine from the nearest shop at Rajiv Nagar which is 18 km away!

(Also read, The Pains of Mizoram's Andermanik villagers" at http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2010/09/pains-of-mizorams-andermanik-villagers.html  )

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The pains of Mizoram’s Andermanik villagers

By Paritosh Chakma

Andermanik is a village inhabited by ethnic Chakma tribals in Mamit district of Mizoram. There are 227 families with population not less than 750. All these are poor people without livelihood, except for Jhum cultivation upon which the forest officials have imposed restrictions. For the past one year, there has been no cultivation due to fear of the long hand of the law.

The Forest Department of Mizoram claims that Andermanik village falls within the Dampa Tiger Reserve area, and hence must leave their homes and hearths. In practical sense, this is a ridiculous claim. This is because these innocent villagers were evicted from the Dampa Tiger Reserve area in 1989 and resettled by the state government outside the DTR area at the present Andermanik village. All in the name of tiger protection! At that time the officials promised them Rs 1 lakh per family but they actually received only a few thousands.

It is said that there are only a little over 1,400 tigers left in this country. And, therefore, their protection is a supreme necessity. Agreed. However, this has provided to Mizoram government another opportunity to displace the minority tribals who are extremely poor and mostly illiterate. The forest officials claim that there could be 5 or 6 tigers in Dampa Tiger Reserve which has an area of 500 sq km. Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra with only 257 sq. km has 14 tigers and Bhadra Tiger Reserve in Karnataka with a total area of 492 sq. km has 35 tigers. So, is it really necessary to increase the area of the Dampa Tiger Reserve at the cost of the tribal villagers? But the Mizoram government is not worried; it is rather happy. By increasing the Dampa Tiger Reserve area it is going to accomplish three motives at one time: evict the minority Chakma villagers, earn good name as protector of tigers/environment and fill its purse with Central funds under Project Tiger Scheme.

As per the “Revised Guidelines for the Ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Project Tiger” (February 2008) of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, the Andermanik villagers have been offered two options:

Option I – Take the entire package amount (Rs. 10 lakhs per family) and the Forest Department will not be involved in any rehabilitation / relocation process

Option II – The Forest Department will carry out relocation / rehabilitation of village from the tiger reserve.

The money being offered is lucrative – Rs 10 lakhs per family, that is a total of Rs 22,70,00,000 ( Twenty Two Crores Seventy Lakhs) for the entire village. Big money. But the major problem lies in the lackluster, secretive attitudes of the officials and politicians who are involved.

From the interaction this writer had with the village leaders, it clearly appears that the officials have adopted a policy of spreading misinformation and keep the entire affair non-transparent for reasons best known to them. And, they have succeeded. Today, the villagers are a divided lot. We have learnt well from the Britishers the policy of “Divide and Rule”.

If the villagers opt for Option I, they take Rs 10 lakh per family but need to find their own homes – somewhere, somehow (so says the Guideline as per the interpretation of the officials). The officials also interpreted to them that their Village Council would be dissolved (Andermanik is a full-fledged Village Council/Court). The villagers are strongly opposed to the dissolution of their Village Council.

Contrary to the opinion of the officials, Section 7.22.4 of the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007 provides that “While shifting the population of the affected area to the resettlement area, the Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement shall, as far as possible, ensure that: a) In case the entire population of the village or area to be shifted belongs to a particular community, such population or families may, as far as possible, be resettled en masse in a compact area, so that socio-cultural relations and social harmony amongst the shifted families are not disturbed.” Therefore, the question of disintegration of the Village Council of Andermanik does not arise after rehabilitation.

Article 10 of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides that “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.” But the right to “free, prior and informed consent” of the Chakma tribals in this case has been thrown out of the window, as the villagers have been completely kept in the dark about the land acquisition and relocation/rehabilitation. This displacement process absolutely lacks transparency; so much so that the villagers do not know about the fate of government servants such as teachers! The teachers fear that they may lose their jobs after relocation.

In case of option II, the following package is proposed, at the rate of Rs. 10 lakhs per family: Agriculture land procurement (2 hectare) and development – 35% of the total package; Settlement of rights – 30%, Homestead land and house construction – 20%, Incentive – 5%, and Community facilities – 10%

Here too, there is a problem. The District Commissioner of Mamit has allegedly told the representatives of the Andermanik village that each family would get only Rs 2 lakhs (for the purpose of house construction) out of Rs 10 lakhs and the rest (i.e. Rs 8 lakh from each family) would be used by the state government to provide land title, develop their lands, and create infrastructure in the new village site. The villagers feel they are being cheated.

The local MLA and Deputy Speaker, Mr. John Rotluangliana has promised the Andermanik villagers a new life in a “model village”. But few are ready to buy this assurance. How can they forget so soon that in 1989 displacement they received only Rs 5000 out of the promised Rs 1 lakh per family? No one knows where the money had gone. The politicians had promised everything. But even today the Andermanik village has no road connectivity and no health care centre. The villagers have to track hostile terrains to have access to PDS food grain or medicine from the nearest shop at Rajiv Nagar which is 18 km away!

The village leaders told this writer that they won’t settle anything less than Rs 5 lakh per family in cash in addition to land title, livelihood and other basic facilities in their new village which the authorities must undertake with the remaining amount i.e. Rs 11 crore 35 lakh (Rs 500,000 X 227). I absolutely believe the villagers are justified in their demand. There is no doubt that the real answer to this problem lies in the total respect of the “free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples” of Andermanik village by the authorities. That means that the villagers have the right to know what’s happening with them and everything should happen with their free will and prior consent. The poor should get the maximum benefits of land acquisition.

( This article is also available at Mizoram Express, 18 September 2010: http://mizoramexpress.com/index.php/2010/09/the-pains-of-mizorams-andermanik-villagers/ )

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A story repeats itself: Three Chakmas assaulted in Mizoram

By Paritosh Chakma

It is a story which has repeated itself once again on 13 July 2010 at Demagiri in Lunglei district of Mizoram. The typical story involving a Chakma goes like this: a Chakma is beaten/abused by a Mizo or a group of Mizos, heightened communal tension fills the air, and ultimately the victim “enters into a compromise” with the culprit(s) to escape further threats and assaults, although the victim is on the right side. To many people this would sound filmy (they have seen too many such scenes in films featuring dacoits and dons etc) but this is for real in Mizoram.

Initial information stated that Sneha Kumar Chakma, son of Direndra Chakma of Silkur village in Mizoram, was brutally assaulted by a personnel of Mizoram Armed Police at Demagiri bazaar in Lunglei district of Mizoram on 13 July 2010. However, later as the story was further investigated, it was credibly learnt that Sneha Kumar Chakma’s wife and another Chakma man were also assaulted by the MAP personnel and two other Mizos in the same incident.

It all happened when Sneha Kumar Chakma and his wife came to sell “dry fish” at Demagiri market. An MAP personnel forcibly took away “dry fish” without paying its price from them. Later, the MAP personnel accused the Chakma couple of being Bangladeshi nationals and assaulted the Chakma couple (The victims are permanent residents of Silkur village, Lunglei district, Mizoram). They both suffered injuries.

In Mizoram, does a Chakma mean a Bangladeshi? If anyone thinks so, then he or she is outrightly disrespecting the Constitution of India which has created the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) under the Sixth Schedule in Mizoram. It is nothing but a tactic of alienation, or at least the Chakmas feel that way every time they are branded/ treated as "foreigners" in their own land. Worst, the allegation and assault is committed by a member of the security forces, who should have been defending his country men in times of need. If a member of Mizoram security forces assaults innocent Indian citizens who belong to a minority community, then he has no right to serve the country in uniform. Reason: He has a sick mind. Protectors cannot be predators, can they?

Sneha Kumar Chakma was later again assaulted on the pretext of taking him to police station but he managed to escape. As Sneha Kumar Chakma could not speak Mizo language well, another Chakma tried to interpret but he was assaulted by the accused.

The next day (July 14) some village leaders went to the accused’s house. The meeting ended in a "compromise". However, the victim was so frightened that he refused to send any of his family members to sell goods in the market. Ultimately, on July 17, he and his wife decided to “gift” a big fat hen as a means to obtain “goodwill” of the accused (the MAP personnel), who otherwise should have been facing the law.

The Chakma community expressed shock and concern. A Chakma social activist (who requested anonymity) told this writer on the phone -
“This is surely an open discrimination against the Chakmas. The Mizoram Armed Police personnel beat up the victim only because he is a Chakma and later defended his action saying that he mistook the victim to be a Bangladeshi Chakma. If Chakmas of Mizoram cannot enjoy their basic rights in Mizoram soil, this is a serious matter. I wonder what will happen to the Chakmas of Mizoram once they fall outside the border fence and denied rehabilitation inside?”
The Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF) has strongly condemned the incident. It stated what appears to be obvious:
 “The matter might have reached a compromise but a scare is left on the minds of the Chakmas every time such incident takes place. Every measure should be taken by the Mizoram government to restore faith of the Chakma community that they can also live in peace and prosper along with other communities in Mizoram.
Very true.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mizoram to showcase its Bamboo Dance at Common Wealth Games 2010

By Paritosh Chakma

I am happy and excited on hearing the news that my state (Mizoram) has received invitation from the organizers of the Common Wealth Games 2010 to send a team to perform “Cheraw” dance, popularly known as bamboo dance, at the opening ceremony of the Games in New Delhi in October 2010. “Cheraw” is basically a traditional dance of the Mizo people, but since it symbolizes Mizoram’s pride and culture, a Chakma of Mizoram like me cannot but be proud in equal measure.

Mizos have long cherished this traditional dance and they enjoy performing it. In March 2010 this dance shot into international fame by entering into Guinness World Records when over 10,378 Mizo dancers performed “the largest and longest bamboo dance" in the world for eight minutes in Aizawl. (I had written about this in my blog, http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2010/03/historic-bamboo-dance-in-aizawl.html )

The beauty of this dance is so mesmerizing that it can't be missed at the Common Wealth Games 2010 if India wanted to showcase its cultural diversity to the world. In the context of India, the invitation also means that Mizoram, a tiny state in far-flung North East, is being recognized for her exotic tradition and peaceful co-existence of different cultures.

Indeed, this is a historical opportunity for the people of Mizoram to showcase their beautiful dance before the entire world. I am sure this colourful and skillful dance will entertain the spectators at the opening ceremony.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mizoram: Inclusion, not exclusion is the answer

By Paritosh Chakma

In my post “Is Mizoram becoming a radical society?” I have narrated the ordeal suffered by three Buddhist monks at the hands of some hooligans in Mizoram, a Christian dominated state in North East India. Of the three victims was Ven. Kaccayana Bhikkhu who was attacked by a group of about 10 youths on the night of 19 May 2010 near Phuldungsei in Mamit district. The attackers kicked, punched the monk wherever they liked and bit his bald head. The beastly nature of the attack is evident.

The next day (20 May) two other Buddhist monks were physically intimidated (one of the monk’s ears were pulled by the two attackers) while traveling in a government bus in Mamit district. As the monks were humiliated, other passengers quietly watched and enjoyed the scene.

In “Is Mizoram becoming a radical society?” I have asked a question – “Is Mizoram sliding into a society where shameful acts like pulling the ears of a religious teacher in full public view tolerated? Towards the transformation into radicalism the first thing a society needs is the silent acceptance or tolerance of attacks (whether verbal or physical) on minority community people or religion by the majority.”

I am happy to clarify here that majority of those (mainly Mizos) who have commented on the issue have strongly condemned/objected to the attacks on the Buddhist monks in Mizoram.

Yet there are a few who think it was on expected line and justified the attacks. Of them is one “dinchhuaha” who while commenting to the attack on Ven. Kaccayana Bhikkhu wrote on 21 May 2010:

“(Chakma) Bangladesh Refugee trying to create seperate (sic) state in Mizoram is shameful. All the chakmas shoul be send back (sic) to their Native place (Chittagong Hill Tracts)”.
For readers who are not aware of Chittagong Hill Tracts, it is in Bangladesh.

His statement is replete with hatred, xenophobia, exclusionist attitude, and misconception about the Chakmas of Mizoram. May be he is not aware that the Chakmas are the largest minority community in Mizoram (with over 8% of the total state’s population). The Chakmas have been granted Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) way back in 1972 under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India like that of Lai and Mara ADCs. He has no idea that Chakmas are as much natives of Mizoram as the Mizos are.

The likes of “dinchhuaha” would want to have everything for themselves and won’t like to share anything with others (read "minorities"). Even the Mizos of Mizoram are a small minority group in a nation of the size of India. The likes of “dinchhuaha” would love to live in a democracy when they are living/travelling in Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata etc but would love to deny the same freedom to the minority groups when they are in their own state. They would cry “equality, liberty, fraternity” when they face harassment/ discrimination/attacks in other states but won’t recognize these principles in their home turf where they only believe that they alone have the right to live in this particular territory. Anything that is not similar to their language, culture, religion, and tradition should banish.

Still many others disbelieved the case of attacks on Ven. Kaccayana Bhikkhu. Now Ven. Kaccayana Bhikkhu has himself commented (see comment no.2):

“I am Ven. Kaccayana Bhikkhu (who got attack on 19th night). ……. It was really shocking for me that I can travel freely in whole India and in foreign country without any problem but in my own birthplace I cannot travel freely.”
I know this Buddhist monk personally and let me give a few details of his life. Ven. Kaccayana Bhikkhu has studied in Bangalore and became a monk in October 1997. He has served in Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre in Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir) and visited foreign countries like Thailand.

The comment of Ven. Kaccayana Bikkhu reminds me of the comments made by Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla in a seminar in Singapore that he was often “a victim of racism” when he visits other parts of India. "In India, people ask me if I am an Indian", he said. Contrast this with Mizoram’s Buddhist monk’s statement that he can’t move freely in his “own birthplace” (i.e. Mizoram) although he travels freely across the entire nation and abroad.

Ven. Kaccayana Bikkhu concludes his comment by stating – “I am still not fully recovered as they have kick and punch me everywhere, most serious is teeth imprint on my head and a kick at my left jaw because of which I still cannot chew any food and I am surviving only on Noodle (food) and going on medical theatment (sic) in my village.”

The moral of this story is: What the Mizos feel in mainland India the Chakmas feel in Mizoram. The need of the hour is to stump out the exclusiionist policies and bring inclusion both in the policies/programmes of the government as well as in our mindsets. Inclusion, not exclusion is the answer.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two Budhist monks manhandled in Mizoram

By Paritosh Chakma

Sat, May 22, 2010 09:40:14 IST
http://www.merinews.com/article/two-budhist-monks-manhandled-in-mizoram/15813882.shtml

ANOTHER SHAMEFUL act of physical attack on Buddhist monks has come to light in Mizoram. On May 20, 2010, two Buddhist monks were physically manhandled, harassed and humiliated by two passengers while travelling in a government Mizoram State Transport (MST) bus from Aizawl to Marpara.

The Buddhist monks identified as venerable Kabidananda Bhikku and venerable Gautamananda Bhikku from Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) were on their way to Marpara village in Lunglei district. When the MST bus reached Phuldungsei town in Mamit district, 147 km from Aizawl, two passengers (aged between 25 and 30 years) began to harass them. The accused pulled the ears of venerable Gautamananda Bhikku while the other monk was not allowed to sleep in his own seat.

The accused asked the monks, “Why are you wearing this kind of clothes,” referring to the saffron robe of the Buddhist monks and pulled the ears of venerable Gautamananda Bhikku in a very demeaning manner.

All this was going on in front of other passengers but none intervened. Among the passengers were three Chakmas – one male and two females but they too could not pull up courage to protest.

The victimised Buddhist monks have confirmed the incident to this writer over the phone. They have told this writer that their ordeal ended only when the two accused passengers got off at Pukzing village about 18 km from Marpara.

This is the second case of physical attacks on Buddhist monks in two days. Earlier on the night of May 19, 2010, Buddhist monk, venerable Kacchayana Bhikku (also a Chakma) was brutally assaulted by unidentified Mizo miscreants in the same route near Phuldungsei in Mamit district.

Buddhists constitute about eight per cent in Christian dominated Mizoram. Chakmas who are Buddhists have alleged marginalisation and discrimination in the state which is considered the most peaceful state in the North East India. On May 24, 2008, then Sub Divisional Officer (Civil) of West Phaileng, Sangthuama in an official communication threatened the elected village head of Khantlang village in Mamit district to stop all welfare facilities/schemes enjoyed by the Chakma villagers of Khantlang if they refused to allot land for construction of a Presbyterian Church there.


Read: Is Mizoram becoming a radical society?, http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2010/05/is-mizoram-becoming-radical-society.html

Friday, May 21, 2010

Is Mizoram becoming a radical society?

By Paritosh Chakma


This is going too far. This morning I woke up to news of another shameful assault on two Buddhist monks in Mamit district, Mizoram.

As I sat silently on my computer waiting anxiously for my sister’s Class XII results to be declared by the CBSE at 8 am today, my phone began to ring. I thought somebody was wanting to know my sister’s result but it was not the case. My sister passed the exam with respectable 57 per cent but my heart sank as the person on the other side of the phone told me that two Buddhist monks were humiliated by two Mizo passengers while traveling from Aizawl to Marpara in Mizoram State Transport (MST) bus on 20 May 2010. It was only two days ago that Buddhist monk, Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku (also a Chakma) was brutally assaulted by unidentified Mizo miscreants in the same route near Phuldungsei!

Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku's case was different. He admitted to me that his vehicle slightly hit the rear view mirror of the Mizos' 407 vehicle -so they got angry and beaten up the Buddhist monk in a fit of rage. I was willing to accept that although violence on a Buddhist monk or Christian Pastor or Hindu Sadhu or Muslim Imam was unacceptable and heinous crime.

But in yesterday's case nothing of that sort happened. It was a cold blooded assault on the holy men. The Buddhist monks identified as Venerable Kabidananda Bhikku and Venerable Gautamananda Bhikku from Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) were on their way to Marpara in a MST bus. When the bus reached Phuldungsei town, 147 km from Aizawl, two Mizo passengers (aged between 25-30 years) began to harass them. The accused pulled the ears of Venerable Gautamananda Bhikku while the other monk was not allowed to sleep in his own seat.

The accused allegedly asked the monks, “Why are you wearing this kind of clothes” referring to the saffron robe of the Buddhist monks, and pulled the ears of Ven. Gautamananda Bhikku in a very demeaning manner.

All this was going on in front of other passengers but none intervened. This is equally shocking. This explains acceptance of the shameful act by the co-passengers who were mostly Mizos. Is Mizoram sliding into a society where shameful acts like pulling the ears of a religious teacher in full public view tolerated? Towards the transformation into radicalism the first thing a society needs is the silent acceptance or tolerance of attacks (whether verbal or physical) on minority community people or religion by the majority. Unfortunately, tolerance of hatred and violence (citing different grounds) by some educated, modern day Mizos is also visible in the discussions at popular blog, http://www.misual.com/ on this subject ( http://www.misual.com/2010/05/20/mizo-in-buddhist-monk-sawisa/) If we the people of Mizoram accept inhuman acts against people of another community or religion, I am afraid this state will be no longer different from any other states where the rights of the minorities are thrashed into the dustbin and minorities are persecuted with impunity.

Among the passengers were three Chakmas – one male and two females but they too could not pull up courage to protest. The victimized monks told me their ordeal ended only when the two accused passengers got off at Pukzing village about 18 km from Marpara.

This is the second case of physical attacks on Buddhist monks in two days. Earlier on the night of 19 May 2010 Buddhist monk, Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku was brutally assaulted by unidentified Mizo miscreants in the same route near Phuldungsei in Mamit district. Read the story I have filed: http://www.merinews.com/article/buddhist-monk-assaulted-in-mizoram/15812894.shtml

Mizoram is often rightly stated to be the most peaceful state in the North East India and I am very happy as well as proud of this. I was also happy when in March 2010, Vice Chairman of the National Minority Commission H T Sangliana, following a visit, found “no serious oppression and persecution of minorities in Mizoram”. But now I am having disturbing thoughts.

I am critically aware about the religious persecution against the Muslims and Christians in states like Gujarat, Orissa and Karnataka etc, but the recent instances of brutal physical attack on Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku, pulling of ears of Venerable Gautamananda Bhikku and harassment to Venerable Kabidananda Bhikku in a public bus (as all other passengers were watching silently) are making me uncomfortable. Is Mizoram, my beautiful state, too moving into radicalism?

These attacks, which are completely unacceptable in a civilized society, highlight the fact that the condition of the minorities in Mizoram is not hunky dory.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Buddhist monk assaulted in Mizoram

By Paritosh Chakma
(In a case of religious intolerance, a Buddhist monk, Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku was brutally assaulted by a group of Mizo youth near Phuldungsei, 147 km from Aizawl in Mizoram on the night of 19 May 2010.)

Thu, May 20, 2010 15:36:59 IST
http://www.merinews.com/article/buddhist-monk-assaulted-in-mizoram/15812894.shtml


A BUDDHIST monk belonging to Chakma ethnic tribe was attacked by some unknown miscreants in Mizoram on the night of 19 May 2010. The incident took place at around 9-30 PM near Phuldungsei in Mamit district, 147 km from Aizawl.

Buddhist monk, Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku was assaulted when he was carrying a Buddha statue in a hired vehicle from Guwahati (Assam). This Buddha statue from Thailand was donated by Mahabodhi Society Bangalore to the Marpara South Buddhist Temple.

It so happened that the vehicle hired by Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku slightly hit the rear view mirror of another vehicle (a 407 vehicle) where about a dozen Mizos were coming from the opposite direction while negotiating for side near Phuldungsei. The Mizos asked the driver, who was a Bengali (a “Vai” in Mizos’ vocabulary) to get down. When the non-Mizo driver was reluctant, they dragged him and started beating him. Seeing this Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku of Marpara South Buddhist Temple intervened and requested the Mizo youths to spare his driver.

At this the Mizo youths began to interrogate Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku. The Buddhist monk showed them the Buddha statue and appealed them to let them go. But the Mizo youths brutally assaulted Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku. They punched him on the face and kicked him for several minutes. One of the assaulters even bit Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku on his bald head, leaving teeth imprints on the head.

Speaking to this writer on the phone from his Buddhist temple in Marpara today, Ven. Kacchayana Bhikku stated, “My case highlights religious intolerance in Mizoram. They fully knowing that I was a Buddhist monk assaulted and insulted me. But I can tell you not all Mizos are like that. After the incident, we could do little because we had failed to note down the number of the vehicle of the accused.”

Meanwhile, the Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF) has strongly condemned the attack on the Buddhist monk. In a statement, MCDF termed the attack as “unfortunate and unacceptable in a civilized society.”

Eighty Seven per cent of Mizoram's population are Christians. Buddhists constitute only 8% who are mainly Chakmas.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mizoram CM praises Chakma culture, promises development

Merinews.com, 1 May 2010, http://www.merinews.com/article/mizoram-cm-praises-chakma-culture-promises-development/15805778.shtml

By Paritosh Chakma

SPEAKING AS Chief Guest on the occasion of 39th ‘CADC Day’ held in the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) headquarters Kamalanagar on April 29, 2010, Mizoram Chief Minister Pu Lal Thanhawla highly appreciated the unique culture of the Chakmas and promised rapid development of the CADC and other Chakma-inhabited areas.

Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla was accompanied from Aizawl by his wife, Pi Lalriliani, Deputy Speaker of Mizoram state assembly John Rotluangliana, Minister of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Nihar Kanti Chakma, and Deputy Commissioner of Lawngtlai district, C Ralkapa, among others.

Promises rapid development

Pointing out that it was the Congress government at the Centre which created the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) way back in 1972, Pu Lal Thanhawla stated that the CADC can’t be dissolved. Three Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) respectively for Chakma, Lai and Mara were created in 1972, but some Mizo political parties have opposed the Chakma ADC and even introduced resolutions in the Mizoram assembly demanding its dissolution.

Having separate autonomous legislature, executive and judiciary, the Chakmas administer their autonomous region in accordance with the provisions of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India.

The Chief Minister promised rapid development of the Chakma inhabited areas – both the CADC and non-CADC areas. He said development in Mizoram was mainly taking place from the North, but now development should begin from the South, and provided examples of proposed trade centre with Bangladesh to be established near Demagiri in Lunglei district.

Spelling out his development plan for the CADC, Pu Lal Thanhawla informed that the Backward Region Grant Fund to the tune of Rs 57 crore will be implemented in six installments and the CADC authority will be empowered to directly implement the programme. To improve road connectivity, Routlang (Chhumkhum)-Kamalanagar road will be upgraded to state highway within one or two years and Kamalanagar-Boroponsury road will be completed with priority.

Kamalanagar Greater Water Supply Scheme will be introduced soon to solve the water woes. The Kawlchaw Hydro Project that is being constructed over the Chhimtuipui River will generate 460 MW of electricity for CADC, he stated. He further stated that he would like to see the CADC as the rice bowl of Mizoram and a technical team led by state Agriculture Minister will soon undertake a visit to carry out a study on agriculture prospects in the CADC area.

Beguiled by Chakmas’ culture

In particular, Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla and his wife appreciated the beautiful culture of the Chakmas that was presented as part of the CADC Day celebration. So beguiled they were that they even performed a dance on the stage to the tune of a Chakma song.

Pu Lal Thanhawla stated that he found the Chakmas’ culture and tradition very rich and would invite Chakma cultural troupe to perform at state level cultural programmes. Mindful of the fact that not many Chakmas can speak the Mizo language, he appealed to them to learn the Mizo language which he said would bring them closer to the Mizos and help them grab more opportunities in the state. However, he was quick to add that no one should be forced to learn Mizo language.

******

Read another report:
Chakma Autonomous District Council will not be dissolved, says Mizoram CM, Mizoram Express, 30 April 2010, http://mizoramexpress.com/index.php/2010/04/chakma-autonomous-district-council-will-not-be-dissolved-says-mizoram-cm/

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cyclone hits Mizoram, 1 killed, hundreds left homeless

Merinews.com, 26 April 2010, http://www.merinews.com/article/cyclone-hits-mizoram-1-killed-hundreds-left-homeless/15805214.shtml

By Paritosh Chakma

ANOTHER CYCLONE has hit the western Mizoram and this time too it hit hard the common people, damaging hundreds of houses and other government buildings. In the early morning of Wednesday (April 21), when the villagers were fast asleep, high velocity wind swept across destroying 236 houses including 138 fully and 98 partially at Digilibagh village under Lunglei district of Mizoram.

One Chakma tribal identified as Chandra Kanta Chakma (53 years), son of Udongya Chakma died on the spot after he was reportedly hit by flying CGI sheets. Local sources informed that three persons have been seriously injured and hospitalised at nearby Demagiri (Tlabung) hospital.

They have been identified as Lokki Loda Chakma (52 years), wife of Porok Dhan Chakma; Porok Dhan Chakma (55 years), son of Muni Chakma, and Lokki Math (50 years), son of Jedhera Chakma. At least three others including two girl children suffered minor injuries. They have been identified as Daya Devi Chakma (5 years), daughter of Atul Chandro Chakma, Prisha Chakma (7 years), daughter of Lalmalswami Chakma and Nakki Chakma (22 years), daughter of Dharak Chandro Chakma.

A number of government buildings have been damaged at Digilibagh village. These include Delbachhua Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) School, Health sub centre and the community hall. Sugurobasora sub-village and Ugudosury sub-village under Digilibagh Village Council have also been affected where 11 houses and 15 houses were damaged respectively. However, no casualty has been reported from these two sub-villages.

On April 24, 2010, a five-member relief team from the Central Young Chakma Association (CYCA) visited the Digilibagh village and distributed Rs 50,000 to the cyclone victims.

The cyclone has once again brought to the sharp focus the lackluster response of the Mizoram Disaster Management and Rehabilitation authorities. When similar cyclone wrecked havoc at Silsury and Hvaha villages under Mamit district on March 30, 2010, the affected Chakma villagers have been left to fend for themselves and till date the education and healthcare facilities in these villages have not been restored.

This time too, little relief has been provided to the victims at Digilibagh village and its neighbourhood sub villages. All that has been done is the visit of Lunglei Additional Deputy Commissioner who reportedly provided a relief of Rs 10,000 to the deceased’s family of Chandra Kanta Chakma, Rs 1000 each to the three hospitalised persons and Rs 400 each the three persons who suffered minor injuries.

According to the local sources, the villagers are facing the hostile weather in temporary shelters which have been built with the help of Young Chakma Association, a community voluntary organisation. No step has been taken to immediately restore the education and health facilities in the affected villages. Ironically, Digilibagh village and Sugurobasora and Ugudosury sub-villages under Digilibagh Village Council fall under the constituency of the incumbent Minister of Disaster Management and Rehabilitation Nihar Kanti Chakma. Yet, Chakma has failed to visit the affected areas to take stock of the situation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ignorance about Mizoram?

By Paritosh Chakma

The ignorance of North Eastern states and its people among the general public in “mainland” India needs no introduction. The scenario was worst in the last decade. Mr 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."
After a decade has there been any improvement in the knowledge about the North Eastern states? No doubt that there has been.

But, from a report appearing in India’s one of the most credible newspapers, The Hindu  on 19 April 2010, I am once again startled.

In its report, “Lapang willing to step down” by Sushanta Talukdar, The Hindu published the picture of Mizoram Chief Minister Mr Lalthanhawla and identified him as “D.D. Lapang” (see the report) while reporting on the possible change of guard in Meghalaya.

Was it a human error, or an error of knowledge? Certainly, ignorance cannot be a human error and the inability to identify Lalthanhawla from D D Lapang cannot be an excuse for The Hindu, which is known for its impeccable reporting of the truth. Just imagine, Nitish Kumar is identitied as Ashok Chavan. However, given The Hindu's record I am willing to believe that it was an error.

Nonetheless I am very angry. Even if a mistake, it has been committed by an intellectual community concerning a renown personality like Mr Lalthanhawla. Only a day earlier, The Economic Times (18 April 2010) had boasted about Lalthanhawla's image. Introducing Mizoram's Chief Minister The Economic Times stated-
“When Lal Thanhawla seeks an appointment with an Union minister in New Delhi, no one disappoints him despite the fact that he is the chief minister of one of the small, far-flung North-East states. After all, he first became Mizoram’s CM when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister.”
(http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/features/the-sunday-et/policy--you/I-wish-we-had-larger-number-of-MPs-Lal-Thanhawla/articleshow/5827094.cms )

My anguish over the ignorance about the NE region can be measured from this. A few months ago, a Hindi daily published the picture of Sharmila Tagore in the news piece that reported the arrest of Manipur’s iron lady, Irom Sharmila by the police! (I have been trying to trace that news clipping , but unfortunately I lost it)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bizu 2010 celebrated by Chakmas in Delhi

By Paritosh Chakma
On 13th April 2010, three social organizations namely, Mizoram Chakma Development Forum, Chakma Welfare Society, Noida and Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Students’ Union organized “Bizu 2010” celebration at Ashok Buddha Vihar, Rajghat, New Delhi.

“Bizu” means the Chakmas’ New Year. As a matter of tradition, the Chakma community follows the Bengali calendar, and hence, their Bizu coincides with Bengalis’ Pohela Boishakh. The Chakmas, although of Tibeto Mongoloid stock, have intrinsic similarities with the mainstream Indian culture in several ways. Prominent among them is that they celebrate their New Year not on the 1st January but in the month of April as celebrated by several Indian communities across the country: Bihu by Assamese, Bwishagu of the Bodos, Bishu in Kerala and elsewhere, Baisakhi in Punjab, Pohela Boishakh by Bengalis etc.

The Chakma people are found mostly in CHT in Bangladesh, Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh. As a people, they had been betrayed during the 1947 Partition, and henceforth forgotten. Despite their rich history and culture they are too fragmented by political borders and marginalized everywhere. Struggle is their daily bread and butter. No surprise that they have been called the “Palestinians of South Asia”.

Yet, they as a community are proud of their past and present. They share a spirit that is indomitable and unparallel amidst the circumstances in which they live. This spirit was once again on display during the “Bizu 2010” celebration by the Chakma community in Delhi.

The stage was set at Ashok Buddha Vihar near the famous Rajghat. It was 8-30 in the morning. Chakmas, with broad smiles in their faces, began pouring in. Girls and women were dressed in traditional phinon-hadi (The Chakma ladies are identified by their phinon-hadi attire) and some of the boys and men were in white kurta (I got myself one, Bizu being a pious day). The Chakma songs provided solace to the ears and instilled immediate pride to the heart. You would immediately like to yell aloud – “This is the place where every Chakma should be today”. But I restrained my emotions on that and didn’t yell.

Refreshments were served. The programme was already running one hour late (it’s Delhi, so excuses are evident). Soon, arrangement was made for the Buddha Puja (Worship of the Buddha). The religious act was over in nearly one hour and the monks concluded by blessing every body.

The welcome song “Oh aisye aamaa Bizu din/ Aisye aamaa Bizu” (oh, today is our Bizu) was sung. It was followed by speeches by leaders from the civil society organizations and student body. They exhorted the audience to do what is good for the society and enjoy the Bizu in the right spirit.

Then came what we were all waiting for: cultural programmes. First came the group dance performed by boys and girls from Arunachal Pradesh. It was received by the audience with thunderous applause. This was followed by a dance by two young “couple” who received “engkur” (a tradition in Chakma community to loudly utter this word if you liked the performance and like to present some money to the performers. In turn performers shall perform the act once again). A spectacular dance was presented by four girls from Mizoram, followed by another dance by boys. The performances were so enthralling that “engkur” followed after every dance. The audience erupted in thunderous applause, laughter and gaiety.

No wonder, today is our Bizu.

The cultural programmes were followed by “Gile Haaraa”, a traditional game of Chakmas played during Bizu. Four teams were formed – two of boys and two of girls. The decision was taken the girls will challenge the boys. Hence, two games. Two empires were quickly nominated. It was extremely entertaining to see both boys and girls trying their hands at the game that is fast fading away from Chakma society. And behold, these girls were surprisingly not that bad in the game! However, despite spectacular show by the girl teams, they lost to the boys.

Another round of refreshments followed by award ceremony. The prizes and certificates were awarded to all those who have participated in the cultural events and Gile Haaraa.

By this time, it was around 2 PM. Every body was hungry. The food came. It was cooked by some of our boys and girls. Believe me, the taste of the food like this was nowhere to be found but here.

Such was the Bizu that was celebrated in Delhi on the occassion of Phul Bizu on 13 April 2010. Of course, the main Bizu is a day after, April 14th. On this day, Chakmas go house to house in groups to celebrate and wish Happy Bizu. Even in metros like Delhi, Bizu is by no means a small affair as you can see hundreds of boys and girls going in small and big groups to one Chakma house (or room rented by Chakmas) after another throughout the day. They sing Bizu songs and dance in each house.  

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mizoram villages devastated by cyclone

By Paritosh Chakma

Last week the entire Mizoram has been ravaged by heavy rain and cyclone. According to sources, about 4,826 houses have been destroyed displacing about 20,000 people.

On 30 March 2010, at least two Chakma villages namely Silsury and Hnahva under Mamit district in Western part of Mizoram have been affected. Silsury village has been totally devastated. Out of 615 total houses, 558 houses were damaged including 393 fully damaged and 165 partly damaged. A total of 14 government infrastructure suffered the brunt. With all the village’s schools (primary school and middle school and the SSA schools) damaged, education came to a standstill. The village’s only health sub centre has been blown away, severely affecting healthcare services given that a number of the villagers have been injured. Even the Buddhist temple, the community hall and the Bazaar shed have been blown away.

The Border Out Post of the Border Security Force in Silsury village also suffered the brunt. I have been informed that one BSF soldier died while another was seriously injured in the cyclone. A number of villagers were also injured.

In neigbouring Hnahva village, at least 67 houses were fully damaged.

Hundreds of Young Chakma Association (YCA) volunteers from Marpara village (20 km away) rushed to Silsury village for relief and rescue operations. The state government has claimed to have sanctioned Rs 2.74 crore for rehabilitation of those affected but assistance is yet to reach the two affected Chakma villages in Mamit district. I have been informed by credible local sources that the authorities visited the affected areas and provided only Rs 69,000 for the damage of 558 houses in Silsury (that is, average of Rs 123 per affected family) and Rs 40,000 for damage of 67 houses in Hnahva (that is, average of Rs 597 per affected family)!

The mobile towers have been damaged and phone lines cut off. This made flow of information difficult.

The affected villagers have been living in temporary tent houses made of bamboos with the help of YCA volunteers. “There are hardly 10-12 houses standing intact after the cyclone,” an YCA volunteer informs me from Silsury. Some of the villagers are already starving and helpless.

Friday, April 2, 2010

RTE Act: A boon for “the most illiterate” community in Mizoram

By Paritosh Chakma
On 1st April 2010 India became one of the few countries in the world that have guaranteed elementary education to the children. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 has made free and quality elementary education a Fundamental Right of every child aged 6-14 years.

Fundamental Rights are enforceable in the court of law. This is the best thing that could have happened to the Chakmas in Mizoram who have been officially recognized as the “most illiterate” community in the state in 2001 census. As the people can sue the state government for its failure to provide education up to Class VIII under the RTE Act, I consider this law as a potential tool against institutional discrimination that denies the right to education.

Over 8% of the total population of Mizoram the Chakmas are the second largest ethnic community after the Mizos who form the majority. That the largest minority (Chakmas) is the “most illiterate” community in Mizoram (the second most literate state in India) itself should be enough to indict the state government of Mizoram for not taking enough care of its minorities. The education officials have admitted that over 15,000 children mainly belonging to Bru and Chakma minorities do not go to schools. Yet the state government has not roped in the minority community NGOs to spread awareness like it did by signing education MoUs with Mizo NGOs namely, Young Mizo Association, Mizoram Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (apex body of Mizo women), Presbyterian Church, Baptist Church and Salvation Army, another Church body.

On the other hand, the education officials have cited “nomadic nature” of these tribes as the chief reason for inability to educate them. The explanation however is flimsy. As a matter of fact, there are more number of Mizos who are engaged in shifting cultivation (jhum) but primary education has effectively reached their children.

According to an independent survey conducted by the Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF), out of total 111 Chakma inhabited villages in Mizoram, at least 75 villages (i.e. 83%) do not have Middle School and the children have nowhere to go. A neighbouring village having a Middle School could be 20 kilometres or more away separated by hilly terrains without road connectivity. The demands of the Chakma villagers for Middle Schools went unheeded for years. While the state government of Mizoram has shifted the blame on scarcity of funds required to open and run new schools, the primary problem is exclusion of the Chakmas from the state’s policies.

Under the RTE Act the state governments and the local bodies will have to establish primary schools “within a walking distance of one km of the neighbourhood” and one middle school “within a walking distance of 3 km of the neighbourhood” (Model Rule 4). This is a boon for the Chakmas who have consistently alleged to have been discriminated by the state government.

The RTE Act gives the Chakmas of Mizoram and several other such disadvantaged communities across the country the power to hold the government accountable. If nothing else work, people can drag the government to court to ensure the enjoyment of their fundamental right to education.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chakma youths undertake social work in Delhi

By Paritosh Chakma

It was a bright sunny day on Sunday, 28 March 2010. The place was at Ashok Buddha Vihar near famous Rajghat of New Delhi. When most people in Delhi generally sleep or prefer to sit cozily at home on this holiday at 8 AM, 40 Chakma young men and women were seen working, cheerfully, at the Buddhist temple. They came from far and wide from the NCR region, some after traveling for more than an hour by bus, some took the metro and some came by auto. As for me, I took the metro which is more comfortable and then a short Rs 5-bus ride to reach the Buddhist temple.

Indeed, even for the Chakma community in Delhi it was a rare sight.

They were conducting a social work to clean the Buddhist Temple premises and helping at construction work ahead of the Bizu festival scheduled on 13 April 2010. The Bizu Organizing Committee, Delhi – spearheaded by three social organizations namely, Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF), Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Students Union (APCSU) and Chakma Welfare Society - undertook this social work mission.

The zeal and dedication of these young men and women were evident in their faces and the jokes which they cracked as they passed on the heavy stone slabs from one hand to the other in a long line.

The young women helped in sweeping the floor, carry the luggage from one room to another and prepared a delicious meal for the entire group.

The social work ended with the delicious lunch. While the lunch was sponsored by the Chakma Buddhist Society (CBS) that is responsible for management of the Ashok Buddha Vihar, the Mizoram Chakma Development Forum sponsored the refreshment (pepsi) provided during the small break periods.

As several tasks remained incomplete, the Bizu Organizing Committee, Delhi resolved to undertake another similar social work to clean the Ashok Buddha Vihar, Rajghat on the coming Sunday i.e. 4th April 2010.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mizoram's minority communities appeal to National Minority Commission

Representatives of Bru, Chakma communities meet NCM Vice-Chairman
http://www.netindia123.com/showdetails.asp?id=1471397&cat=India&head=Representatives+of+Bru%2C+Chakma+communities+meet+NCM+Vice-Chairman

Aizawl | Wednesday, Mar 24 2010 IST

Capitalising on the visit of National Commission for Minorities Vice-Chairman H T Sangliana, representatives of Bru, Chakma and Hmar communities in Mizoram apprised the vice-chairman about their difficulties and problems.

Dr Sangliana arrived at Aizawl yesterday on a five-day visit to the state.

In his introductory words to the interaction programme held at the Chief Secretary's conference hall, Dr Sangliana said he was sent here to see if the minorities in the state were enjoying their rights provided by the National Minorities Commission Act, 1992. He assured the representatives that he would look into their grievances.

The vice-chairman said even though Mizoram looked peaceful and calm from outside, there had been a few cases of communal tension which could trigger major conflicts. He emphasised on the crucial importance of maintaining cordial relationship among majority and minority communities and the role of the government, NGOs and the Churches in maintaining communal harmony.

He said even if the government wanted to usher in rapid developments in Chakma and Bru areas, there had to be peaceful atmosphere.

The vice-chairman said notwithstanding differences in caste or community, every citizen of Mizoram should consider himself as ''first class citizen''. ''Only when there is harmony among different communities of Mizoram, then peace and development can become a reality,'' he said.

The Bru representatives requested him that the 'Special Development Project' for Bru community in Mizoram be implemented now instead of waiting for the repatriation of the Bru refugees from the six relief camps in North Tripura. The vice-chairman suggested that the matter would be discussed during his visit to Tripura with the Bru refugees there and Bru leaders from Mizoram.

Congress MLA Nirupam Chakma requested Mr Sangliana to visit the Chakma area in Southern Mizoram to have a on-the-spot inquiry on the condition of the Chakmas. The Chakma representative also apprised the vice-chairman about the ''plight of Chakma families affected by the ongoing Indo-Bangla border fencing''.

Representatives of Hmars expressed concern over the four proposed hydel projects in Hmar area (Sinlung Hills Development Council) that would allegedly render hundreds of Hmar families homeless. They demanded rehabilitation for these affected people. They also expressed grievances that Rs 250 lakh allocated in the SHDC Annual Budget was ''too meagre'' and demanded increment.

Bizu (Chakma New Year) Celebration in Delhi

Bizu Organising Committee, Delhi
Ashoka Buddha Vihar, Rajghat
New Delhi-110 002

INVITATION

Dear sir/madam,

Patturu turu.

Bizu Organizing Committee, Delhi cordially invites
you and your family to the 2010 Bizu Festival to be
celebrated at Ashoka Buddha Vihar, Rajghat, New
Delhi on the occasion of Phul Bizu on 13 April 2010
(Tuesday) .

Please refer to the programme.

Sangha Mitra Chakma            Hemanta Chakma
Convener                               Co-Convener

Note: You may bring candles, flowers etc for Buddha Puja

Request: All are requested to come in the following dress code:
               Male: White Kurta Female: Pinon-Hadi


PROGRAMME OF BIZU
CELEBRATION, 2010

8:00 AM                 Arrival
8:00 - 8:30 AM      Refreshment
8:30-9:00 AM        Prayer
9:00 - 9:05 AM     Welcome Speech
9:05-9:40 AM       Felicitation
9:40 - 10:20 AM   Discussion on Mandir
                             Development/Welfare Issues
10:20 - 11:20 AM  Cultural Shows
11:20 AM               Traditional Gile Haaraa
11:30 AM               Bhikkhu Siyong
12 Noon                Vote of Thanks
12:10 PM             Launch

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Historic Bamboo Dance in Aizawl: Celebration of Mizoram's rich culture and unity

By Paritosh Chakma

I have been dying to write about this since history was created in Mizoram on 12 March 2010.

A total of 10,378 Mizo dancers in full traditional attire - boys and girls in equal numbers - performed “the largest and longest bamboo dance" in the world for eight minutes in Assam Rifles Grounds and in the adjoining streets in the heart of Aizawl city. The streets were made the platform as the Assam Rifles Ground could accommodate only about 4000 dancers. The Mizoram capital happily allowed, cooperated, witnessed and celebrated as the world record was being created.

It is not a piece of cake to bring a city to a standstill for a cultural show even for an attempt to world record. You can try elsewhere but I don’t think it will be possible. But it looked easy in Mizoram. That itself is another world record of sorts.

Guinness World Records judge Lucia Sinigaliesi awarded a certificate to Mizoram’s Arts and Culture minister, PC Zoramsangliana that read:

“The longest bamboo dance was achieved by the people of Mizoram, in Aizawl, Mizoram, India, on 12 March 2010”
Note the words "the people of Mizoram”. It was indeed an achievement for the people of Mizoram and an honour.

This is recognition of Mizoram’s great and distinct culture.

The bamboo dance epitomizes Mizoram’s unique and rich culture. Perhaps this is the most popular thing people know about Mizos or Mizoram. A person who may not have any knowledge about the whereabouts of Mizoram on the map of India, may still have heard of the bamboo dance.

The 12th March heroic bamboo dance event has put Mizoram on the world’s map.

I do not know for sure whether this will increase the flow of tourists (Indians as well as foreigners) into the state but I feel that the success of the 12th March event should not be measured by the amount of revenue the state government will be earning in the coming months from tourism.

The 12th March event should go down the history of the state as celebration of unity and rich cultural treasures of Mizoram. This should inevitably enhance our relationships within and outside and our commitment to work for a peaceful, harmonious and developed Mizoram where differences are respected and high ideals celebrated.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is this water fit to drink?

By Paritosh Chakma


Access to safe drinking water is an acute problem throughout the hilly tribal state of Mizoram in the North East India.

Chakma tribal villagers do not have access to safe drinking water. The most common sources of water are the rivers. But the rivers are often polluted by bathing and washing of clothes and dirty utensils by the entire village population, by bathing of cattle and more importantly, by cremation of the deaths (Chakmas cremate the corpses on the river banks) thereby rendering the river water not fit for consumption.

As an art handed down over generations, the Chakma women build temporary tiny shallow “ponds” on the sandy river banks from where they usually collect the drinking water. It is not known how clean and germs-free the water is that is believed to gather into the “sand ponds” after filtration from the river body.

The villagers have to find alternatives in the rivulets and small springs. It is here that traditional knowledge comes handy.

The Chakma women carve tiny shallow “ponds” in stony surface at specific locations near tiny rivulet (see the pictures). Although clean water is believed to sieve from the bottom of the rocks or from the tiny rivulets, it is certainly not germs free. Fungi (and what not) grow around the pond surface.

The problem is majority villagers do not have water filter to purify the water. They are too poor to buy one. They also do not have a habit to boil the water before drinking. As a result, water-borne diseases are common in the remote areas.

During rainy season, it is difficult to get drinking water as it is impossible to collect drinking water from these “ponds” or the rivers. People usually harvest rain water in rainy days.

(All the photos used here are taken by the author during a visit to a remote Chakma inhabited village in Mizoram, near the India-Bangladesh border in January 2010)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mizoram Chakmas protest Bangladesh atrocities

By Paritosh Chakma

On 4 March 2010, the Chakmas of Mizoram joined the worldwide movement denouncing the ongoing human rights violations against the minority Jummas (tribals) in Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Thousands of Chakmas held a protest rally at Chawngte (also called Kamalanagar), the headquarters of Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in Mizoram to protest against the recent attacks on the religious minorities namely Buddhists and Christians in CHT by the Bangladesh army and illegal Muslim settlers. The residents of Kamalanagar, and from neighbouring villages participated in the protest rally.

During attacks from 19-23 February 2010, at least eight Chakma tribals have been killed, over 400 houses burnt down and over 2000 tribals displaced. The Bengali plain settlers also burnt down a Buddhist temple and a church beside a UNDP-run health centre.

The attacks are still on. On the night of 4 March 2010 the settlers launched fresh attacks on the indigenous tribals (also called Jummas) burning down half a dozen more houses and one UNICEF-run community school at Daney Baibachara village in Rangamati district. The houses that were burnt down were located just a few hundred yards away from a police station but the police personnel stayed mute spectators.

The Bangladesh government has failed to bring the culprits to justice. It has also refused to investigate the alleged roles of army officials in the attacks. All it has done is to transfer two army officials from the riots affected areas.

The Chakmas have held protests across the world, including in front of the UN Headquarters in New York, London, Seoul, Sydney and Adelaide in Australia, Tokyo, Colombo, and New Delhi, Kolkata, Agartala in India. Among others, two of the world’s largest human rights organizations Amnesty International and Survival International demanded action against the culprits responsible for attacks against the Jummas.

On 26 February 2010, the European Union strongly condemned the “shameful acts of violence” against the indigenous peoples in CHT and demanded an independent investigation. However, the other countries, notably giant neighbor India and the US have been mute spectators to the violence against religious minorities in Bangladesh. The UN too has expressed concern and stated it was “closely monitoring” the situation.

The protest rally in CADC, Mizoram was spearheaded by the most influential Chakma NGO, the Young Chakma Association (YCA) and supported by all the local NGOs and political parties. At the end of the rally, the protestors submitted a Memorandum to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh through the Chief Executive Member, CADC seeking his immediate intervention with the Bangladesh government to end the sufferings of the Jummas (indigenous peoples) in CHT.

Observers feel that the support the CADC protest rally received from across the political spectrum is a testimony to the rising unity and political awareness of the Chakmas in Mizoram about the issues that concern the community.


Also read:
  • Mizoram Chakmas protest atrocities on Jummas, Merinews.com, 5 March 2010,
http://www.merinews.com/article/mizoram-chakmas-protest-atrocities-on-jummas/15800170.shtml


Fresh attacks against tribals in CHT

According to the latest reports received from ground zero, the illegal Bengali settlers, freshly emboldened by the refusal of the Bangladesh government to act against the perpetrators of the communal attacks of 19-23 March 2010, launched fresh attacks on the indigenous Jummas burning down half a dozen more houses and one UNICEF-run community school at Daney Baibachara village in Sajek, Rangamati district, CHT on the night of 4 March 2010.


The fresh arson attacks began at 8:55pm on 4 March 2010. The houses that were burnt down were located just a few hundred yards away from a police station but the police personnel stayed mute spectators.

The persons whose houses have been burnt have been identified as

1. Dayal Kishta Chakma

2. Kina Chan Chakma,

3. Baggya Chakma,

4. Bidya Sadhan Tripua,

5. Ramana Sen Chakma, and

6. Nirmal Kanti Chakma

The Bengali settlers also set fire to a UNICEF-run community school in the village, known as Alo Ranir Para Kendra.

The indigenous Jummas are living in constant fear of attacks.

Yet, the Bangladesh government has failed to bring the culprits to justice. It has also refused to investigate the alleged roles of army officials in the attacks. All it has done is to transfer two army officials from the riots affected areas.

Earlier on 26 February 2010, the European Union strongly condemned the “shameful acts of violence” against the indigenous peoples in CHT and demanded an independent investigation. However, the other countries, notably giant neighbor India and the US have been mute spectators to the violence against religious minorities in Bangladesh. The UN too has merely stated that it was “closely monitoring” the situation.

Chakmas in CHT being subjected to ethnic cleansing: World Chakma Organisation

On 3 March 2010, Secretary General of the World Chakma Organisation Venerable Bimal Bikhhu stated in a press conference in Kolkata that the Chakmas in CHT, Bangladesh are being subjected to "ethnic cleansing", reports PTI:


Chakmas in CHT being subjected to ethnic cleansing, PTI, 3 March 2010, http://www.ptinews.com/news/546462_Chakmas-in-CHT-being-subjected-to-ethnic-cleansing


Kolkata, Mar 3 (PTI) Chakmas community living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh are being subjected to "systematic ethnic cleansing" by a section of that country's military and Islamic fundamentalists who conduct arms training camps for terrorists there, a community leader alleged today.

"Islamic fundamentalists, along with a section of the Bangladesh military, are carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Chakma community in the CHT. Islamic militants are also running arms training camps there," Secretary General of the World Chakma Organisation Venerable Bimal Bikhhu told a press conference.

Bikhhu said a series of attacks in various parts of the CHT between February 19 to 24 left at least six indigenous Chakmas dead and 50 injured.

Over 400 tribal houses, along with a Buddhist temple and a church, were burnt down during the attack, while 2,000 people were displaced, he claimed.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

United Nations "closely monitoring" CHT situation

UN monitoring situation in south-eastern Bangladesh following recent violence, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=33945&Cr=bangladesh&Cr1#



2 March 2010 –The United Nations system in Bangladesh is closely monitoring the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, which has been the scene of recent violence between different ethnic groups, and stands ready to assist those in need, a spokesperson for the world body said today.

According to media reports, the clashes that began over a week ago between Muslim settlers and Buddhist tribals in the region has led to several deaths and many injuries. In addition, several hundred homes have been burned and thousands left homeless.

The UN “hopes that all will unite to help the recovery from this tragedy in a spirit of peace for the greater good of the nation,” spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York.

“The United Nations stands ready to provide targeted assistance to those in need, in close collaboration with the Government,” he added.

 
Also Read:
 
  • European Union condemns attacks, demands independent investigation:

  • Protests across the world by Chakmas and other human rights activists,
http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2010/03/protests-by-chakmas-across-world.html

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mizoram Chakmas Condemn Bangladesh Massacre

Sinlung.com, 2 March 2010,
http://www.sinlung.com/2010/03/mizoram-chakmas-condemn-bangladesh.html



Aizawl, Mar 2 : The Chakma community in Mizoram today condemned the killing of Chakma tribals in the Chittagong Hill Tracts by the Bangladesh Army on February 19 and 20.

A joint meeting of all political parties in Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC), spearheaded by the Central Young Chakma Association at CADC capital Kalamanagar today passed a resolution condemning the killing of indigenous people by the Bangladesh army for grabbing the tribals land.

According to a statement, the Bangladesh Army personnel killed at least six Chakma tribals, injured 25 while many others have been reported missing. The Army also allegedly burnt down 200-300 houses, including seven shops, a church, a Buddhist temple and a United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) run village centre in three villages in Rangamati district of Chittagong Hill Tracts.

''About 1500 indigenous people have been displaced, no rehabilitation provided to the affected people and majority of them are taking shelter in the jungles without proper food to eat,'' the statement added.

The joint meeting also resolved to stage a peace procession in Mizoram on March 4 to express solidarity with their brethren and submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Dr Mamohan Singh to urge him to talk to his Bangladesh counterpart to immediately solve the issue.


See the protests by Chakmas across the world: http://paritosh-chakma.blogspot.com/2010/03/protests-by-chakmas-across-world.html

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Protests by Chakmas across the world against atrocities in CHT

Protests in Dhaka, Bangladesh







































Watch Dhaka protest videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AZqy5ksTqA&feature=player_embedded

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gic53m-Epd4&feature=player_embedded


Protests in London, UK, 24th February 2010





















Another protest held on 28th February 2010. Watch London Demonstration:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKEWIrhyKEk




Protest in Seoul, South Korea, 24th February 2010



Protest in New Delhi, 25th February 2010








Protest in Agartala, Tripura, 28th February 2010












Protest in Tokyo, Japan, 25th February 2010


Watch protest demonstration video in Tokyo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRl_q3zz3K8
Watch another video of Tokyo protest: http://www.youtube.com/user/jummanet



Protest in Sydney, Australia, 26th February 2010





Watch the Sydney protest video: Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFYIis6knn8
                                                  Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pX7mxlrFuw0
                        Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oS9nWa-EFQc
                       Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9ZDxAL0CtY


Protest in Adelaide, Australia











Protest in New York, before the UN Headquarters, 1 March 2010











Protests in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2 March 2010


Protest Meeting in Kolkata, India, 3 March 2010


Protest at Chawngte, CADC, Mizoram, India, 4 March 2010








Protest in Bangkok, Thailand, 5 March 2010

Buddhist Monks protest against violence in CHT, outside the United Nations building in Bangkok. Picture courtesy: http://www.thaiphotoblogs.com/index.php?blog=5&title=jumma-monks-protest-in-bangkok&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1







The Campaign:

22 Feb: CHT Commission demands investigation into the attacks, 

23 Feb: Asian Centre for Human Rights, New Delhi releases its report "Bangladesh: IPs Massacred for Land Grab", http://www.achrweb.org/reports/bangla/CHT012010.pdf
 
24 Feb: Renowned international tribal rights organization Survival International and Jumma Peoples Network UK held a protest in front of the Bangladesh Embassy in London, and submitted a Memorandum to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. Read the Memorandum:

24 Feb: Jumma People`s Network-Korea and several other organizations and individual activists sent a protest letter to Bangladesh PM

25 Feb: Jumma Peoples Network in Japan, World Jumma Voice and Jumma Net submit memorandum to Bangladesh PM through Bangladesh Embassy, Japan

25 Feb: Indian Chakmas submit a Memorandum to PM Dr Manmohan Singh seeking the immediate intervention of Govt of India

26 Feb: CHT American Jumma Peoples seek the intervention of United States Ambassador to Bangladesh

26 Feb: Amnesty International's Public Statement: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA13/006/2010/en/413527c8-6e9d-42be-acaf-3e17524a8f08/asa130062010en.html



European Union condemns attacks, demands independent investigation:

Read the Statement by the spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the acts of violence in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/113070.pdf