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/