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