Monday, December 12, 2011

Indian Chakmas angry at 'Bengalee' tag in Bangladesh



By Paritosh Chakma

Published in Merinews.com, 12 December, 2011

[The Indian Chakmas are angry over the fact their brethren in Bangladesh were forcibly identified as 'Bengalees' in the recently amended Constitution of Bangladesh.]

INDIAN CHAKMAS have expressed their anger at ‘Bengali tag’ of their brethren, which is aimed at ‘destruction of their identity’ in the recently amended constitution of Bangladesh. Fifteen Indian Chakma civil society organizations submitted a joint “protest letter” to the visiting Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs Minister of Bangladesh, Mr Dipankar Talukdar at Kamala Nagar, headquarters of Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in South Mizoram today, protesting against his alleged support to the unacceptable reference of the Chakmas and other indigenous peoples including Lushai, Tripuri, Garo etc as “Bengalees” in the recently amended Constitution of Bangladesh.

The Chakmas from Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh through their civil society organizations expressed the “angst of the Indian Chakmas” against the “destruction of identity of the Chakmas in Bangladesh” as a consequent to the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh passed on 30th June 2011 which has branded the Chakmas and other indigenous peoples including Lushai, Tripuri, Garo as “Bengalees”.

The Chakmas civil society organizations have demanded a "written assurance" from Dipankar Talukdar (who also belongs to Chakma community) that after his return to Bangladesh he will take all the necessary measures to impress upon the Sheikh Hasina government to recognize the Chakmas and other ethnic communities as “indigenous peoples” in the Constitution of Bangladesh.

The Indian Chakmas also demanded Mr Talukdar’s personal intervention in his capacity as Member of Parliament and Minister of CHT Affairs for speedy and full implementation of the CHT Peace Accord of 1997 signed between the Government of Bangladesh and the indigenous peoples of CHT which would help restore peace and bring development to the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The 15 signatory organizations to the memorandum are Mizoram Chakma Development Forum, Tripura Chakma Students Association, Arunachal Pradesh Chakma Students Union, MAADI, Meghalaya Chakma Students Union, Guwahati Chakma Students Union, Barak Valley Chakma Students Association, The Chakma Voice, Mumbai Chakma Association, Dibrugarh Chakma Students Union, Mizoram Chakma Students Union, the Central Young Chakma Association, Mizoram Chakma Social Forum, Mizoram Buddhist Association and Chakma Mahila Samiti.

Mr Dipankar Talukdar is on an official visit to India (Mizoram) from 7-11 December 2011 to strengthen trade relations between the two countries.


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Also read, Chakmas peeved at 'Bengalee' tag, The Seven Sisters Post, 11.12.2011



Old age pension not paid for last nine months in Mizoram


By Paritosh Chakma

Published in Merinews.com, 10 December 2011

ON DECEMBER 9 2011, Mizoram’s well known voluntary organisation, the Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF) claimed that Old Age Pension has not been paid in the entire state of Mizoram for the last nine months, since March 2011 and has sought the personal intervention of Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla for payment of Old Age Pension to all the beneficiaries before the Christmas.

In the petition the MCDF stated that as per the Supreme Court order dated 28th November 2001, payment of the pension under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension (IGNOAPS) Scheme shall be made before seventh day of every month and that Central grants meant for the IGNOAPS cannot be diverted for any other purposes as per the direction of the Supreme Court of 27 April 2004. But old age pension has not been paid in the entire state of Mizoram for the last nine months since March 2011 which is direct and blatant violation of the directions of the Supreme Court.

Due to the inordinate delay in the payment of the old age pension, the beneficiaries in the entire state have been sufferings and the State cannot be a silent spectator to their hardships, MCDF stated.

According to Mizoram Upa Pawl (Senior Citizens’ Association) of Mizoram, there are 23,547 beneficiaries of old age pension scheme.


Friday, December 9, 2011

MCDF demands payment of Old Age Pension to all beneficiaries in Mizoram before the Christmas


9 December 2011

Press Release

Old age pension not paid for the last 9 months in Mizoram: MCDF seeks CM’s personal intervention


New Delhi: Today the Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF) stated that Old Age Pension has not been paid in the entire state of Mizoram for the last nine months, since March 2011 and has sought the personal intervention of Mizoram Chief Minister Mr Lalthanhawla for payment of Old Age Pension to all the beneficiaries before the Christmas. The petition has been submitted by fax.

“In the petition the MCDF stated that as per the Hon’ble Supreme Court order dated 28th November 2001, payment of the pension under the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension (IGNOAPS) Scheme shall be made before seventh day of every month and that Central grants meant for the IGNOAPS cannot be diverted for any other purposes as per the direction of the Supreme Court of 27 April 2004. But old age pension has not been paid in the entire state of Mizoram for the last 9 months since March 2011 which is direct and blatant violation of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court.” – stated  Hemanta Larma, president of MCDF.

“Due to the inordinate delay in the payment of the old age pension, the beneficiaries in the entire state have been sufferings and the State cannot be a silent spectator to their hardships”, further stated Mr Larma.

The petition was also submitted to the Mizoram Governor His Excellency Shri V B Purushathaman, and the Office of the Supreme Court Commissioners, New Delhi. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Virtual identity



Paritosh Chakma: that is not


In today’s world, everyone ought to have a “virtual existence”. If you don’t, you are out-dated. Therefore, even Chakma people from remotest areas like Nunsury village on the India-Bangladesh border of Mizoram are active on the online world which provides you a “virtual existence”. They are uploading information and photos of every life.

Any existence must have an identity. Now, the Chakma netizens have come out with a unique concept and they are enjoying it. The Unique Identification (UID) Number of the Government of India may be steeped in controversies, this Chakma project of similar nature is going viral in the Facebook.

“The Government of the United Royal Chakma Kingdom” – a virtual country of the Chakmas - has started issuing National Identity Cards to all its “citizens”. The project will cover entire Chakmas on planet earth. This mindboggling project is being handled by very sophisticated CIN (Chakma Information Network)

I too applied for my National ID card and got it. Have a look. Isn’t it wonderful?







However, not everyone is eligible. Every country has its own laws, rules and regulations. In this virtual Chakma country, only “Chakma” or “Changma” are eligible to apply for National ID Cards. If you are not one of these, you will be outrightly denied an ID Card in United Royal Chakma Kingdom, like this friend of mine. 








Paritosh Chakma: that is

Currently, Paritosh is editing "The Chakma Voice – Global Edition 2011", which is to be released on 31st December 2011. It is a mammoth task, but his team is going strong.


Wish me best luck.



Monday, October 31, 2011

Our script is our birthright





By Paritosh Chakma

The rally by Chakmas in the streets of Agartala, the capital of Tripura, on 18th August 2011, three days after the India’s Independence Day, is an unforgettable event. Although I was not physically present there, the photos flashed through the Facebook inspired me to write this article.

The Chakmas participated in the rally holding placards and banners written in Chakma script, Bengali and English conveying their demands. Most of the placards and banners were written in Chakma script but they were also written in Bengali and Roman scripts so that others and Chakmas who cannot read the Chakma script can read and understand.

The rally was participated by over 400 people, including women and girls, from the nook and corners of Tripura. Given the lackluster attitude of Chakmas towards social movements across India, the number (400) is significantly higher, also given the fact that the rally was held at Agartata where not many Chakmas live. The number reflected the honour Chkamas would like to have by getting official recognition of their script and language.

Constitution vs Tripura govt

The Constitution of India has provided adequate safeguards for minorities, including linguistic minorities. While all the constitutional safeguards like the right to equality, non discrimination etc, are also applicable to the minorities, the Constitution has spelt out several safeguards specifically for the minorities. Article 29 (1) of the Constitution explicitly states that “any section of citizens” has the right to conserve the “distinct language, script or culture of its own”. The Constitution also says that it shall be the endeavour of every state government to provide adequate facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage (Article 350 A).
But the Tripura government has “imposed” the Bengali script on Chakmas. It is an insult to the whole Chakma community and naked violation of the fundamental rights of the minorities in India.

Not many tribal languages have their own scripts. Since Chkama is an endangered language, the State must take adequate measures to safeguard it. The first and most important measure would be to officially recognize the Chakma language and script and give all the protections under the law.

But the Tripura government has separated the Mother Tongue from its script. The state government had agreed to introduce Chakma language but not the script. The million dollar question is: why should the Chakmas read or write their language in some other’s script when they have their own script which is centuries old and well developed?

Who’s to blame?
If the Tripura government has refused to adopt the Chakma script who is to blame? The Tripura government has squarely blamed the Chakmas themselves, and to be more specific, the Advisory Committee for Development of Chakma Language (hereafter “Advisory Committee”) which is headed by a Chakma. Figure this. Vide letter dated 16 August 2010, Director of SCERT, Tripura informed the General Secretary, Undandhi Sadhak (NGO) that “Chakma Text-Books are being prepared in Bengali Scripts on the basis of the resolution adopted in a meeting of the Advisory Committee for Development of Chakma Language held on 10/08/1998, which was approved by the higher Authority vide DO.No. 256/Min/Edn/99 dated 1-4-99”. “In this regards, it may be mentioned here that the Authority of School Education is acting on the basis of the advise/ recommendation of the Advisory Committee for Development of Chakma Language,” the letter further pointed out. 

Earlier, responding to an RTI application filed by Aniruddha Chakma, GS, Chakma Students’ Association, S. Debbarma, Deputy Director, SCERT, Tripura reiterated the same thing on 25 February 2008: “Bengali script was adopted [for Chakmas] as per recommendation of Advisory Committee for Development of Chakma Language”.  

The allegation also goes that the Advisory Committee on 10 August 1998 secretly embraced the Bengali script. Interestingly, the Advisory Committee has never publicly refuted these allegations. 

However, to be fair to the Advisory Committee, prior to 1998, it had indeed recommended to the state government for adoption of Chakma script. For example, such a resolution was passed on 8 October 1993 but the state government did not accept it. Instead, the state government vide letter No. F.19(8-11)-DSE/88(2-3)/850-58, dated Agartala, the 05 September 1995 announced that Chakma subject will be taught in Bengali script!

So, it is evident that prior to the Advisory Committee’s resolution of 10 August 1998, the state government had already approved Bengali script. 

There is also evidence to suggest that the Advisory Committee did indeed lobbied for Chakma script. In a letter dated 2 November 1995, Officer-in-Charge, Tribal Language Cell, Directorate of School Education, Agartala informed Pragati Chakma, Member of the Advisory Committee that “the Hon’ble Education Minister has kindly agreed to introduce only Chakma Language subject in Chakma Scripts from Class III onwards at the Primary level as per report submitted to this office by the Chairman of Advisory Committee for Development of Chakma Language.”  

But the state government of Tripura never kept its promise. It needed an excuse to scuttle the Chakma script. That excuse came in the form of the Advisory Committee’s resolution of 10 August 1998 that was passed under mysterious circumstances.  

That however does not exonerate the Advisory Committee which has a lot to answer.   
On August 29th, Chakma social leaders and Advisory Committee members held a meeting with state’s Education Minister. The Education Minister decided to send the proposal for Cabinet consideration. Chakmas believe this is a delaying tactic. Only god knows how many more years it will take to come to a solid decision.

Way forward
We must not be disheartened by the August 29th event. Chakmas must continue to keep the movement for Chakma script alive.  

Our fight must be both at state level and national level. We must bring our demand to the notice of the President of India and the National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, who reports to the President. Under Article 347 of the Constitution, “On a demand being made in that behalf the President may, if he is satisfied that a substantial proportion of the population of a State desire the use of any language spoken by them to be recognised by that State, direct that such language shall also be officially recognised throughout that State or any part thereof for such purpose as he may specify.” There are several pockets in Tripura where Chakma speakers could be considered “substantial” in number. We must make it clear that language and script are inseparable.  

The National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, created under Article 350B of the constitution, has the authority to “investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under this Constitution and report to the President”. 

Chakmas must use various constitutional mechanisms. If nothing works, we must seek legal guidance as to whether or not this case could be taken to the court.

The Chakmas’ understanding is: Our script is our birthright. What does the constitution say?


(First published in SOJAAK, Issue No. 3, October 2011, available at http://sojaak.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/sojaak-october2011.pdf )


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chakma: A language utterly neglected in Mizoram


The Chakma is a community with distinct culture, traditions, and a language having its own written script. They mostly inhabit the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh; the Arakan or Rakhine state of Myanmar; and Mizoram, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh & Assam in the North Eastern region of India. The Chakmas, though in less numbers, are also living in various parts of the world.

In Mizoram, Chakmas have Autonomous District Council, protected under the Constitution of India. The Chakma ADC protects and preserves the community’s culture, language and script, apart from enjoying political autonomy (though in limited measure). With a population of 71,283 which constitute 8% of Mizoram’s total population (Census 2001), Chakmas are the second largest community, after the Mizos. (See, http://censusindia.gov.in/Tables_Published/SCST/dh_st_mizoram.pdf )

But, Chakmas are very much neglected in Mizoram. This article seeks to document an aspect of that neglect, that is, Chakma language.

Height of apathy: Chakma speakers are counted as Bengalees
In the Mizoram government’s response to questionnaire for 41st Report (for period from July 2002 to June 2003) of the National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities (NCLM) there is no mention of Chakma as a language spoken in the state. The linguistic profile of Mizoram was mentioned as follows:

Language
No. of speakers
Percentage
Lushai/Mizo
518099

75.11
Bengali
59092
8.57
Tripuri
26425
3.83
Lakher
22938
3.32

Pawi
15316
2.22
Hmar

9525
1.38
Hindi
8837
1.28

Nepali
8247
1.20
Paite

7726
1.12


The highlight of Mizoram government’s response is the exclusion of Chakma language. The fact that the Bengali speakers were mentioned as 8.57% suggests that Chakmas have been counted as Bengalees! (Just look at the figures below; Bengali is spoken by just 1% of Mizoram’s population.) Counting of Chakmas as Bengalees is the height of discrimination and apathy against the Chakmas by the administration in Mizoram.


However, Chakmas figure prominently in the response to the questionnaire for NCLM’s 42nd Report (for the period from July 2003 to June 2004). The languages are as follows:

Language
No. of speakers
Percentage
Mizo
773058
87
Chakma
71086
8

Hindi
31989
3.6
Bengali

9774
1.1
Others
2666
0.3


The Chakma language has been rightly restored as the second most spoken language in Mizoram after Mizo.

In the responses to the questionnaire for 45th Report (for the period from July 2006 to June 2007), the languages spoken are given as:

Language
No of speakers
Percentage
Mizo
647849

72.9
Chakma

67057
7.55
Lakher
34731
3.9
Pawi
24900
2.8
Paite
14356

1.61
Hmar
14240
1.6
Bengali
13325
1.5


How the number of Chakma speakers came down from 71,086 to 67,057 is a mystery. On the other hand, Census 2001 counted the Chakmas as 71,283. 

If we look at critically, we find the following three things:
            First, it is evident that the state government of Mizoram in its response submitted to the National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities for 41th Report counted the Chakmas as “Bengalees”.
            Second, exclusion of the Chakmas as a distinct linguistic group (despite being the 2nd largest linguistic group) was height of discrimination and apathy against them, and assaults their identity as a distinct community in Mizoram; and
            Third, the Mizoram government has been inconsistent with the number of speakers of various languages including Chakma.

Mizoram snubs NCLM: Evidence of apathy against minorities
Article 350B of the Constitution of India provides for “a Special Officer for linguistic minorities” to be appointed by the President whose duty shall be to “investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under this Constitution and report to the President upon those matters at such intervals as the President may direct, and the President shall cause all such reports to be laid before each House of Parliament, and sent to the Governments of the States concerned.” The National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities was created under Article 350B.

The NCLM may be a constitutional authority but without any teeth. Its orders are repeatedly violated by the state government of Mizoram, without any accountability.

The 46th report (July, 2007 to June, 2008) of the National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities painfully records -
Inspite of repeated reminders and letter to Chief Minister from the Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities, the State Government did not furnish a reply to the Questionnaire for the 46th Report of the CLM. Therefore, there is nothing new to report, than what has already been reported upon in the 45th Report of the CLM for the period July 2006 to June 2007.

The NCLM merely reproduced its earlier recommendations contained in the 45th Report as below:
i. The State Government should immediately issue suitable directions for maintenance of Advance Registers in schools to enable registration of linguistic preference of minority language students.
ii. It should make efforts to develop expertise in languages other than Mizo. It should also help in preparing the books in Lai, Mara Chakma, Paite and Hamar
iii. The State Government should take steps to publish gist of important rules, regulations, etc. in minority languages in areas where their speakers constitute 15% or more of the local population.
iv. The State Government should publicize the safeguards available to linguistic minorities so as to ensure that speakers of minority languages are not denied their linguistic rights for want of information in this regard.
v. A firm machinery to look after the safeguards provided to the linguistic minorities is required to be established at state and district level. This should also include a monitoring committee to check action taken by the subordinate officers.

This is not the first time that the Mizoram government snubbed the NCLM. In his 44th Report (July 2005 to June 2006) the CLM also painfully notes that “Reply to the questionnaire for the Forty Fourth Report has not been received from Mizoram even after a lot of efforts. We are unable, on this account, to give information about the updated position about the implementation of the safeguards for the linguistic minorities.”

Mizoram’s Tribal Research Institute: Mirror of discrimination
The aim of the Mizoram’s Tribal Research Institution (TRI) is to “undertake a systematic study and research in all aspect of tribal life and economy which will help the Tribal Areas and the Government in formulating the Development and Welfare Schemes for the tribal people in the correct lines.”

Its objectives are: 1. collection of factual information about the history, social organisation, language, customs and manners, wedding, birth and death ceremonies, customary laws and usages, system of inheritance etc. for each particular tribe resident in the state; 2. study the old monographs and writings on the customs, social organisations, and other subjects; 3. collection of folk songs, folk tales, prayers, stories, festivals, myths and fables; 4. evaluation of the Welfare Works taken up since Independence particularly noting their impact on the mind and psychology of the people showing which of them harmonise with their modern way of life and development, and 5. to take up social economic survey of each Tribal village.

But the Mizoram’s TRI situated at Aizawl has done nothing for the Chakma tribe. This reflects the biasness against the Chakma community.

The 44th Report stated that “The TRI is not working on any language other than Mizo and is not producing any books in them. At least the folklore of these tribes can be published in their own language. TRI can also help prepare the books in Chakma, Lai and Mara.” Similarly, the 45th Report recommended that the Tribal Research Institute “should make efforts to develop expertise in languages other than Mizo. It should also help in preparing the books in Lai, Mara Chakma, Paite and Hamar.”

No monitoring Body
No independent body has been set up to monitor and implement the safeguards provided to the Linguistic Minorities.

The Mizoram government refused to provide answers in a lot of questions, mainly relating to machinery for implementation of the safeguards of rights of linguistic minorities. It did not reply to questions for 45th Report concerning the safeguard mechanisms.

It is surprising that the Mizoram government while responding to questionnaire for 42nd Report stated “Items 43 to 47 come under the purview of State’s Home Department”.  “Items 43 to 47” related to Machinery for Implementation of Safeguards and Pamphlets in minority languages.

Minorities’ silence: No complaint
The state government has stated that no petition/ complaint has been filed by any linguistic minority group. When asked to indicate major problems faced by the government and administration in actual implementation of safeguards provided to linguistic minorities, the Mizoram government replied “N.A” (Not Applicable) (Response to questionnaire for 40th Report).

(This article is taken from SOJAAK, Issue No. 3, October 2011, available at http://sojaak.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/sojaak-october2011.pdf )



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MCDF demands justice for Lobindra Chakma of Mizoram


PRESS RELEASE

BDO beats up villager for demanding NREGS wages
MCDF seeks Mizoram CM’s intervention to punish the BDO 


27 September 2011

New Delhi: Today the Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF) in a petition submitted to the Mizoram Chief Minister Mr Lalthanhawla demanded stringent action against the Lungsen Block Development Officer (BDO), Mr John Tanpuia who tortured a villager Lobindra Chakma for demanding wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Lobindra Chakma mysteriously disappeared from the BDO’s custody on 23 September 2011.

The BDO, Mr John Tanpuia had asked Lobindra Chakma (44 years), s/o Chitra Kumar Chakma of Siphirtlang village in Lunglei district to saw teak logs, which the later refused on the grounds that he had no partners (it needs at least two persons to saw logs) and had no money to hire labourers. Angered by this, the BDO withheld Chakma’s wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Lobindra Chakma filed a complaint with the Lunglei Deputy Commissioner against the BDO for blocking his NREGS wages.

Enraged by the complaint, the BDO Mr John Tanpuia went to Siphirtlang village on 23 September 2011 and brutally beat up Lobindra Chakma, and his wife, Ms Milebo Chakma in full public view. Due to the severe assault, Lobindra Chakma vomited blood but the BDO continued to beat him. Later, Lobindra Chakma was huddled into the BDO’s vehicle and taken to his quarter at Lungsen. Since then, the whereabouts of Lobindra Chakma are unknown.

“It is a clear case of brutalities by a powerful official against a helpless villager. The misuse of authority by the BDO is palpable. Such brutalities are unacceptable in a civilized society. That the victim went missing from the BDO’s custody is a matter of great concern. The law of the land demands that the Lungsen Block Development Officer Mr John Tanpuia must be punished for his illegal and unconstitutional actions.” – stated MCDF president Hemanta Larma.

MCDF’s demands included registration of a case against Lungsen Block Development Officer Mr John Tanpuia and his immediate arrest, a high level investigation by a police officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police; suspension of the BDO till the completion of the investigation; find out the whereabouts of Mr Lobindra Chakma and reunite him with his family; and provide a compensation of Rs 10,00,000 (ten lakhs) to the victim’s family as interim compensation which should be recovered from the accused BDO. [Ends]




Read MCDF's petition to Mizoram Chief Minister, Lalthanhawla here: http://mcdf.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/mcdf-demands-justice-for-lobindra-chakma/