Friday, February 12, 2010

Extension of Dampa Tiger Reserve area: A ploy to grab the Chakmas’ lands?

By Paritosh Chakma

I sense something utterly fishy about the way the state government is going ahead with its plan to extend the existing area of the Dampa Tiger Reserve (in short DTR), the largest and the most celebrated wildlife sanctuary in Mizoram. The DTR having an area of 500 sq km is situated in Mamit district bordering Bangladesh and symbolizes Mizoram’s environmental and wildlife protection commitments. Notified as Dampa Wildlife Sanctuary in 1985 it was declared a tiger reserve in 1994. Hundreds of people, mainly Chakma and Bru minorities had been evicted from their habitats with little rehabilitation benefits when the DTR was notified.

There are 10 villages around the DTR with a population of roughly 10,000 tribals mostly Mizo, Chakma, and Reang (Bru) tribes.(1) The latest ambition (though officially not declared) of the Forest Department is to extend the area of the DTR by including a few surrounding Chakma villages namely Andermanik, Rajiv Nagar, Silsury and Hnahva villages. Of these, Hnahva and Andermanik villages are settlements established by Chakmas who had been evicted from the DTR area.

Yet, interestingly the Mizoram Forest Department has of late renewed its claim over the Andermanik village, which is a duly recognized Village Council, as “core area” of the DTR. As stated earlier, the villagers of Andermanik had been “resettled” here after they were evicted from the notified DTR area. So, how can Andermanik village area be inside the DTR? I have heard that the state government has even issued a “Notification” with regard to the acquisition of the Andermanik village council area to be brought under the DTR. But I am yet to lay my hand on this socalled “Notification”.

No, the Chakma villagers are not complaining. Why should they be complaining when the state government has allegedly verbally promised them Rs 10 lakhs per family if they shifted to other site? In August 2009, Mizoram’s Deputy Speaker and local MLA John Rotluangliana along with other political leaders visited Andermanik village and impressed upon the villagers to find new life beyond Andermanik. Poor and illiterate people seldom complain when their leaders tell them what ought to be good for them.

The golden question which still remains a mystery is: who will fund this eviction programme? There are over 100 families in Andermanik and if the state government sticks to its assurance it will have to shelve out at least Rs 1,000 lakh as compensation plus rehabilitation in their new village. Mizoram has received Rs 97.34 lakhs during 2004-05, Rs 65.1560 lakhs during 2005-06, Rs 115.16 lakhs during 2006-07, Rs 82.90 lakhs during 2007-08 and Rs 241.45 lakhs during 2008-09 under Project Tiger from the Central government.(2) Does it mean the Central government will fund a programme in Mizoram that will displace over 100 families of backward tribals and put them in uncertain future?

I see a hidden agenda. Is it to grab the lands (and forests) of the Chakmas in the name of nature conservation? I guess I will never get the answer to it.

There are very less number of tigers in DTR which is as follows(3) :

1993 – 7
1995 – 4
1997 – 5
2001-2002 – 4

The Chief Wildlife Warden Mizoram has recently stated that there are only 6 (six) tigers in the Dampa Tiger Reserve.(4)

But then what is the necessity of extending its area at the expense of the livelihood of the people? This question should be asked again and again, for, the affected once again are the Chakma minorities.

Apart from the six tigers the important species found in DTR are elephant, Sambar, Barking deer, Hoolock gibbon and variety of birds. It is no denying the fact that environment conservation and protection of the endangered species are important issues in today’s world. But these precious species, in particular the tigers can also be protected and looked after within the existing area of DTR (500 square km). There is no need to extend its area. It is not a fact that the tigers are finding limited space to move freely. The forest officials must concentrate on measures to protect the endangered tigers rather than endangering the Chakma minorities. Last year a Chakma villager asked me, “Are tigers and birds more precious than the lives of the Chakmas?” I had no answer to give him, for, I didn’t want to say ‘yes, it seems at least so’.

I love tigers and environment, but I do not support bad policies when they affect the innocent people, more so if these policies are arbitrarily imposed on them.

The state government knows well that it cannot evict the Chakma tribal villagers of Andermanik as their rights are protected under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Hence, it is using money as bait. The political leaders’ shadowy defence that it is up to the villagers whether to accept the state government's offer or not is not convincing and outrageous  to say the least. Instead of alluring them with a lot of money the villagers must be counseled about their present, and future. The political leaders and the government must think of the long term interests of the people, not evict them needlessly. If the concerned people belong to minority communities more care should be taken so as not to harm their interests. But Mizoram government seems not to think that way.

If today the state government is shoftly allowed to acquire the Chakmas’ land in Andermanik by offering handsome money, it will not hesitate to ‘buy’ other nearby Chakma villages – Silsury, Rajiv Nagar and Hnahva as part of its policy to economically suppress the Chakma minorities.





4. Mizoram to conduct tiger census, The Telegraph, Kolkata, 22 January 2010, available at


Sugar said...

Chakmas as I know are not real inhabitants of Mizoram but are displaced people coming from Bangladesh, they live mainly in the borders of Bangladesh, they have no land to claim as their own except the Chakma Autonomous District Council in Lawngtlai District of Mizoram, this District Council was created because Mr Lal Thanhawla the present Chief Minister of Mizoram needed vote banks.
I have been to villages of Chakmas and what made me really sick was the way they live, the Govt of Mizoram provide them with schools where educated Chakmas are given jobs as teachers but instead of uplifting their fellow Chakmas they live elsewhere enjoying their salary.
The Chakma Autonomous District Council is corrupt to the core. During my college days I have seen sons and daughters of CADC officils living a posh life in cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai etc. Where does the money come from ? Maybe by selling Sidol (Dangpuithu).
I humbly beg the author of this blog to look deep inside your Chakma culture try to educate them instead of fighting a losing battle against the Mizo people and ask yourself what have your Chakma people done to bring good name to Mizoram

Paritosh Chakma said...

1.“Chakmas as I know are not real inhabitants of Mizoram but are displaced people coming from Bangladesh………..”
Reply: You are not aware of history. Of course many Chakmas entered India as refugees not illegal immigrants due to their systematic persecution under East Pakistan (since 1947 up to 1971) and under Bangladesh (since 1971). However, there is little meaning to the claim that Chakmas do not belong to Mizoram. The fact is they are as much sons of the soil as the Mizos are. There is enough modern historical evidence to prove Chakmas have been original inhabitants of western and Southern parts of Mizoram bordering Bangladesh. The ancient trading centre called Demagiri (still a Chakma dominated area) and its surrounding areas were once part of the Chakma kingdom the Chittagong Hill Tracts in present day Bangladesh but were transferred under the Lushai hills for administrative convenience by the British. As the provincial gazetteer of India Volume V at page 413 states:

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

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

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

2.Chakma Autonomous District Council in Lawngtlai District of Mizoram……. was created because Mr Lal Thanhawla the present Chief Minister of Mizoram needed vote banks
Reply: CADC was not a gift from Lal Thanhawla. Politically conscious Chakma leaders fought for it politically and got it during the 1971 North Eastern Reorganization. Mizoram was not even born then. It was meant to safeguard the interests of the minorities. Simultaneously, MADC and LADC were created.

3.the Govt of Mizoram provide Chakmas with schools where educated Chakmas are given jobs

Reply: Of the total 111 Chakma villages in Mizoram, only 31 villages have Middle Schools, and 5 villages have High Schools. That is, 80 villages (72%) do not have Middle Schools and 106 villages (over 96%) do not have High Schools. What are you talking about? Have you ever wondered why Mizoram can’t overtake Kerala in literacy? Its because of denial of basic education to Chakmas.

4.The Chakma Autonomous District Council is corrupt to the core
Reply:You got it right

5.[You are] fighting a losing battle against the Mizo people

Reply:Our fight is not against the Mizo people. We are fighting against our own government which deprives us, neglects us, and discriminates us. Our fight is legitimate, peaceful, and democratic. We do not hate Mizo people and do not fight them.

6.what have your Chakma people done to bring good name to Mizoram
a.Today Mizoram is the most peaceful state in trouble torn North East. This is because Chakmas have never took up arms or tried to destabilize the state. So, Chakmas have contributed to peace. Unfortunately, Chakmas could not contribute in the progress, as they are the most backward.

b.The Chakmas are Buddhists. They have their own distinct language, script, dress and culture-norms. Such differences provide the democratic fabric of cultural diversity which Mizoram should be proud of. Unfortunately, many want homogenous society and suppress the “deviant” culture.

Lewis said...

@Sugar, your comments lack factual backing. You seem to be a nerd with hatred and pre-concieved notion and a racist by birth.By your writing, I presume you are a Mizo from Chakma areas of Mizoram, however born to be believe that anything that is not similar to Mizo(Language, culture, food habits etc) should perish. Please join Hitler and I believe you know where he is now.Good Luck...ooops bad luck!

LOL..please take the history book that the author cited while joining Hitler. Chakma Autonomous District Council Was born before Mizoram. So just shut your stinking mouth!
I do not tend to believe you became nerd after eating BOILED DOG MEAT...I do not eat dogs but I will defend your rights to eat anything that moves including DOGS.Tell your friends in cities that how DOG MEAT taste while Chakmas trade in universaly loved SIDOL.
Next time, learn to write with substantiated facts, unless you love to read this kind of comment.
Chakmas of South Western Mizoram are much more Mizorami than you are and they have accomodated plenty of Mizo migrants that's why Mizos are majority now in Demagiri Town. Mizo brothers plz avoid this SUGARA, else he will bring bad name to the Educated Mizo Society and bring a bad name to our beloved Mizoram. Cheers.....!

zurosurih said...

As rightly pointed by the author, history tells us that Demagree which in present day is known as Tlabung has existed from the time Lt. T.H. Lewin made his first foray into the Lushai Hills through Chittagong Hill Tracts with the aim of reigning in ‘marauding’ and ‘savage’ chiefs of the Lushai hills who were involved in regular raids, killings and abduction within British territories.

His accounts in his book, A Fly on the Wheel stand as sufficient proof that Demagree (Tlabung) has been a part of the Chittagong Hills Tracts, the Chakma Kingdom whose influence and territory extended till the outer reaches of the Lushai Hills.

The fact that the Lushai Hills and the Chittagong Hill Tracts came under one single administrative unit during Lewin’s reign should explain why there certainly could have been migration and movement of people from one place to another given the nomadic and semi nomadic life hill people led then.

Partition in 1947 which led to breaking down of old and creation of new geo-political boundaries cannot put people from a certain ethnicity on the wrong side of history and nationality. Like it will be wrong to consider the Mizos and other sub-Mizo tribes living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts as ‘illegal immigrants’ in Bangladesh just because they might have possibly crossed over from these Mizo hills at different points of time in history, the Chakmas living in Mizoram also does not qualify to be looked upon as ‘illegal immigrants’ for the same reasons.

These tribes, mostly the Chakmas have been living in these regions of the state even earlier than the time when T.H. Lewin made Demagree his home in the 1870s. They were not foreigners then. And, they are not foreigners now.

zurosurih said...

@ sugar..bhai, tor banga-pojhe lager nahi? :-)

Sugar said...

This is because Chakmas have never took up arms or tried to destabilize the state. So, Chakmas have contributed to peace.
I think my history is very bad but what about the Chakma outfit called Santi Bhaini or whatever.
@Lewis are you trying to act funny or just some newly computer literate and by the way have you ever heard the term vegetarian. It means I don't eat meat leave alone dog meat. And haven't you heard Chakmas also eat dog so I guess it's dogs eat dogs. What have you Chakmas achived at all in Mizoram and how many doctors and engineers do you have I guess fewer than my fingers leave alone Phd.
I almost forgot I am not from Chakma inhabited areas for your kind information. Don't mind my girlfried in a Chakma

Lewis said...

@Sugar I know people like you have stopped eating human being and taking human head as trophy. However,your pretention of being vegetarian is as impossible as seeing bald and clean shaven Dr. Manmohan Singh. It's ok Mr. SUGARA you do not need to feel ashamed of your eating habits. Hahah...your Chakma GF LOL..LOL, now I know how you must have been hit in your B@!!$ by the Chakma gal you have approached that probably prompted you to write this kinda comment without any logic and substantiated facts.
@Sugara wake up...this is not South West Mizoram where mizo like you think it is your birth right to racially abuse, torture and extort from innocent and peaceloving Chakma folks.You nerd...RACIST!Mizo like who love to demand equal rights and democracy when you come to Delhi and do the opposite when you are in Mizoram.This kind of attitude of your will take the Mizo community to darkness and peaceloving Chakmas will prevail as free and equal citizen.I presume you are educated though not civilized by any count, you still can access the information that Barack Obama is the President of The USA and he belong to once suppressed and discriminated Afro Black community.
@SUGARA you got it right, Chakmas in Mizoram are very backward and undeveloped that is becoz people like you are afraid of Chakmss taking over Mizos in Education, Jobs and development.
By the way Chakmas are leading micro community in 11 countries, Top 40 Scientist in Canada, President of University of Western Onterio,member representing Asia of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues,Tech Entrpreneur and Business Realtors in Sillicon Valley-USA, Top professor and Scholars in UK/Thailand/Australia, World famous Artist, Highly paid Artist in France,the list is endless..guess what, they are all Chakmas. All you have to do is Google.
Have you been able to contact Hitler, bad luck Junglee!

Anonymous said...

I will never accept chakmas as mizo's they r disgusting and poor

Anonymous said...

I will never accept chakmas as mizos

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