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.