Monday, January 23, 2012

False propaganda against Chakmas on social media


By Paritosh Chakma

The internet is both an evil and a Good Samaritan. It is the source of all information, good and evil. In recent times, internet, in particular the social networking sites, have played (and are still paying) critical roles to usher in revolutions in India and abroad, particularly in the North Africa and West Asia.

However, apparently, as anything else in this world, social media too has its own negative sides. It is often used by people with vested interests to spread misinformation and promote hatred towards particular groups or communities against whom they are prejudiced (for whatsoever reasons).

One such recent example I have come across was in Facebook group “Tribes of North East India”, where a member (apparently a “native” of Arunachal Pradesh) made a scathing attack on Chakmas in his state.

“Chakmas are not marginalized … they live like a BOSS in Diyun circle of changlang district. Rape, murder, kidnapping are the way of life by CHAKMAS there,” he wrote in one of his comments.

I was horrified to read this. I am not from that state but I keep myself abreast with the situation of the Chakma people there.

“Rape, murder, kidnapping” are the “way of life” of the Chakmas? I can only imagine of this in my wildest dreams. Way of life? The way of life of the Chakmas is economic impoverishment, statelessness and going to bed every night with the hope of a new beginning the next day which is, however, yet to come. For the last about half a century they have been putting their hopes against hopelessness.

Only refugees know what it is meant to be “refugees”. But Chakmas' life is worse than the refugees of India. Technically, the government of India does no longer consider them as “refugees” and therefore they do not receive any free ration (or at subsidized rates) or cash doles, housing assistance or any other facilities from the government. They do not live in refugee camps; they live in “villages” and they fend for themselves with the limited resources available locally. To be fair to the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh who have been treading through an uncertain path, unsure of their destiny, for the past about five decades, they have shown considerable patience, perseverance and wisdom against all odds. Lack of livelihood sources and lack of employment opportunities can drive any community, in particular the youngsters, to go awry. But Chakmas have displayed great wisdom and civilizational traits in being able to remain peaceful in trying times and circumstances such as the one they have faced.

Therefore, I challenged the commentator to show any example of rape committed by Chakma against indigenous women. He could not. Instead, he told me if at all I am so concerned I could shelter three-four Chakma families from Arunachal in my home state.

That is not the issue here, I retorted. I exhorted him to come out with the facts and educated him saying that people only should believe him on the basis of facts he produced and not by his mere allegations. While he stated that rape was the way of life of the Chakmas, he couldn’t produce a single example of rape, and therefore stood exposed. 100 per cent.

This is one of the examples how the social media, in particular the Facebook, is being used by a gaggle of people with vested interests to spread misinformation about other communities based solely on their perception but without any facts. We must counter those thugs everywhere we meet them - be it on the street or on the online forums.

It is our duty to educate such people on the Chakma community. I hope you agree with me on this.