Sunday, May 17, 2015

Debunking the Theory of Abnormal Chakma population growth in Mizoram

By Paritosh Chakma

Mizoram’s largest circulated daily, Vanglaini on 11th May 2015 reported that the Central Young Mizo Association (CYMA)- Mizoram’s largest voluntary organization – has decided to go ahead with its proposal to conduct a census on Chakma minority community of the state. Earlier the CYMA had to shelve this illegal “Chakma Census” because the Union Home Ministry reportedly ticked off the Mizoram government after a high level delegation of Chakma National Council of India led by Tarun Vijay, senior BJP leader and Member of Parliament met the Union Minister of State for Home Shri Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi.  

In this regard, the Mizoram government took a logical stand with Home Minister R. Lalzirliana categorically telling CYMA leaders that “ it would be against the Constitution to conduct a census for one particular community within Mizoram”. But it appears that the YMA leadership is not impressed.

Last month (April, 2015), the Mizo Zirlai Pawl submitted a memorandum to BJP national president Amit Shah during his visit to Aizawl. The memorandum pointed out to alleged “abnormal increase” of Chakma population in Mizoram “due to immigrants from the neighbouring Bangladesh”.

Such allegations of Chakma influx are not new. Such allegations were investigated and rejected by the Government as early as 1955.

Shri S. Barkataki, the last Superintendent of Lushai Hills, in his letter vide D.O No. II-7/50/56-8 dated Aijal 11th October 1950 to R.V. Subrahmanian, Secretary to the Government of Assam for Tribal Affairs brought to the notice of the Government about alleged Chakma influx from Chittagong Hill Tracts in then East Pakistan. His Inspection Note on Lunglei SDO’s office dated 21st November 1949 stated that new passes were being issued to Chakmas and Tripuras. He contended that “These peoples are foreigners and I do not see any reason why they should not pay at the foreigners’ rate of Rs 5/- each. Taxes must be realized at this rate from 1950-51.” But Mr Barkataki himself admitted that prior to writing this Lunglei Inspection Note it was not known to him that his predecessor Mr A. Macdonald, Superintendent of Lushai Hills, in his Order No. 734-47G of 29 April 1946 had declared the Chakmas to be natives of Lushai Hills just like the “Lushais” or Mizos and with effect from 1946-47, Chakmas were needed to pay house tax equal to what Lushais paid, that is Rs 2/- and not Rs 5/- which was what the foreigners paid.

The order of Mr A.  Macdonald, Superintendent Lushai Hills is worth producing here below:

Order No. 734-47G of 29-4-1946
With effect from 1946-47, the following races will be deemed to be a “Lushais” for the purpose of House Tax assessment under Notification 4973 of 16-7-1934.
This order does not affect any restriction on immigration into Lushai Hills District from other areas.
Copy to S.D.O., with reference to your 273/D.C.VII.4 of 15-4-1946.
Copy in Lushai to all Rahsis. The race will still be named in the House Tax Registers, but all the races above named will pay House Tax at the same rate as if they were Lushais.

Sd/- A.Macdonald, 29-4-1946
Superintendent, Lushai Hills”

But Mr Barkataki totally misinterpreted Mr Macdonald’s order. Mr Barkataki wondered “on what principle Mr Macdonald included the Chakmas with Lushais. The Chakmas are an entirely different race having little in common with the tribes of Lushai Hills.” If only Mr Barkataki utilized a bit of his brain and senses he would have known that Mr Macdonald did not identify Chakmas as an ethnic group belonging to Lushais but only notified that with regard to payment of House Tax Chakmas and other tribes such as PAWI, PAIHTE, HMAR, LAKHER, RIANG (Tuikuk), MATU, CHAWRAI, HRANGKHAWL, LANGRAWNG will pay as much house tax as the Lushais paid at that time. (Clear this from Macdonald’s order “The race will still be named in the House Tax Registers, but all the races above named will pay House Tax at the same rate as if they were Lushais.”) In effect, Chakmas and other tribes such as PAWI, PAIHTE, HMAR, LAKHER, RIANG (Tuikuk), MATU, CHAWRAI, HRANGKHAWL, LANGRAWNG were not to be considered as foreigners (who are required to pay tax at the rate of Rs 5/- while Lushais paid Rs 2/-) but natives of Lushai Hills.

It is evident that Mr Barkataki’s concern was more of losing revenue due to Mr Macdonald’s order. He writes, “If the Chakmas are treated as non-Lushais they will be liable to pay house tax at the rate of Rs 5/- and also other taxes such as Court and Stamp duties which will bring in an additional revenue of over ten thousand annually. I am in favour of adopting this course.”

The government of Assam shot down Mr Barkataki’s absurd suggestion.

An investigation into Mr Barkataki’s allegations about illegal Chakma influx into Lushai Hills was also found to be incorrect. Mr Barkataki’s successor Mr KGR Iyer, IAS, Deputy Commissioner, Mizo District personally investigated the matter and submitted his report to the Government of Assam vide No. GP.21/55/56 dated Aijal the 27th October 1955. Relevant points of his findings are as follows:

“In order to ascertain whether there has been any increase in the Chakma population of 11435 in 1951 an informal census was held by me in 1954 and 1955 and it was found that there has not been any increase as shown below:-
Lunglei Subdivision                Population of Chakmas
Circle XII ..                                         1664
” XV                                                   36
” XVI                                                  173
” XVII                                                 8615
Total 10488
Aijal Subdivision (1955)
Circle X                                              840
” XI                                                     47
Total 887
Grand Total for whole District, 11375 against 11435 in 1951”

So in fact the Chakma population decreased by 60 souls from 1951 to 1956.

Mr Iyer, Deputy Commissioner of Mizo District further stated that “The report of the Chief Executive Member [of Lushai Hills District Council] about unauthorized influx of Chakmas from East Pakistan is not correct.” He further added that the District Council was “trying to blame the Government for the presence of the Chakmas instead of tackling the real problem facing the District Council. The view taken by the Chief Executive Member, District Council, Mizo District, is in my opinion, not sound as Government is sought to be blamed for the shortcomings in the administration established by the Council.”

The Chief Executive Member of Pawi-Lakher Regional Council, Lungleh, also rejected the contention of the CEM of Lushai Hills District Council on abnormal rise of Chakma population within the Pawi-Lakher Regional Council. In his letter dated 11 April 1955 to the Chief Minister of Assam, Regional Council CEM stated “First, the Chief Executive Member’s figure of Chakma and Riang families living in our area as stated by the Chief Executive Member is not correct. There are not “more than 1344 families” as the Chief Executive Member would have it, but only 831 families.”

The Lushai Hills District Council was always at loggerheads with the Chakmas and wanted to expel them forcefully. When on 26 July 1954, Executive Secretary of the Lushai Hills District Council wanted to know from the Deputy Commissioner of Lushai Hills whether there was any order from the Government to expel to Pakistan any Riang or Chakma residing without possessing passes after 15-7-1954, Deputy Commissioner KGR Iyer returned a stern letter stating that there was no such order from the Government and that “unnecessary correspondence may pleased be avoided.” (No.GP.21/54/58 dated 31.7.1954.)

Chakmas’ unique place in Lushai Hills

The Chakmas of British Chittagong Hill Tracts happened to be included within the British Lushai Hills when an eastern part of the Chakma chief’s (king) territory were transferred from Bengal province to Lushai Hills under Assam province in 1898. As the Chief Commissioner of Assam Mr W E Ward in his letter No. 149-P dated the 17th July 1897 written to the Government of India stated, “The station of Demagiri is not situated within the present area of the South Lushai Hills. It is topographically within the area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. But, under Sir Charles Eliott’s [Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal] orders, passed in 1892, it was declared that, for administrative purposes, Demagiri should be considered to be part and parcel of the South Lushai Hills” This proposal of the Chief Commissioner of Assam was accepted by the Government of India on 27th January 1898 and finally, the South Lushai Hills together with Demagiri sliced off from CHT was placed under the administration of Assam by a proclamation of the Government dated 1st April 1898. “The boundaries [of CHT] were revised, and a strip on the east, including Demagiri with a population of about 1,500, was transferred to the Lushai Hills.” (See, Sir Robert Reid, History of the Frontier Areas Bordering on Assam 1883-1941)

Prior to such transfer of Demagiri areas from CHT to Lushai Hills, wide consultations were held with the then Chakma Raja Bhuban Mohan Roy. Indeed, in a letter dated 19 October 1898 to the Chakma Raja, Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton, then Chief Commissioner of Assam stated that “We cannot prohibit your people from entering the Lushai Hills but have no wish to offer them any inducement to do so.” However, several Chakma families gradually migrated to Lushai Hills from CHT due to a number of factors, chief of them being availability of virgin forests for Jhum cultivation, extraction of wood etc which attracted them. But these settlements were neither illegal nor unauthorized.

The position of the Government of India with regard to Chakmas in the Lushai Hills is clear from this statement dated 27 October 1955 of Shri KGR Iyer, then Deputy Commissioner of Mizo District: “As the Chakmas are treated as Scheduled Tribe just like any Lushai or Mizo tribe they were allowed free entry into this District without passes before the introduction of Indo-Pakistan Passport system but they were not, however, allowed to settle without a pass. Since the introduction of the passport system no entry of Chakmas from Pakistan is allowed without Valid passport and visa and from July 1954 no new influx of Chakmas is allowed without the prior permission in writing of the Deputy Commissioner, Mizo District and a standing order to this effect has been passed.”

Therefore, entry of Chakmas from CHT into the Lushai Hills was never prohibited or sought to be made prohibitory during the British rule. Only rules were imposed if they wanted to settle down permanently. The Chakmas being tribals like the Lushais required no permit to enter the Lushai Hills, but to settle down they had to get written permission from the SDO and follow the rule of the Lushai Chief of the area.

Anti-Chakma campaign based on lies and rumours

The basis of anti-Chakma campaign by YMA, MZP or some political parties is based on lies, half-truths and rumours about abnormal growth of Chakma population and illegal infiltration from Bangladesh. These malicious campaigns can be easily debunked or exposed with facts that are already available in official records.

With regard to the MZP’s memorandum to Amit Shah, the CNCI has this logical response:

“This also bears significance to the memorandum submitted recently to Amit Shah, President, BJP by the MZPs wherein facts have been misrepresented deliberately regarding the growth of Chakma population in Mizoram with inflated figures about the Chakma population as has been learnt from a press report of the thenortheasttoday dated 17/4/2015. For instance it was claimed that Chakma population have jumped to 80,000 in 1991 against the fact that Chakmas were only 54,194 (as per census data)…. It was also conjured that the population of the Chakmas could be around 1,50,000. Whereas, the population of the Chakmas is only 71,283 by 2001 Census figure ( and as per a report of the Vanglaini issue dated 2/3/2015 the population of the Chakmas as of 2011 is only 96,972 (”

Therefore, MZP’s claim is highly distorted and does not tally with official census figures. It is ridiculous that the CYMA wants to go ahead with its socalled Chakma Census based on such false and distorted figures on Chakma population submitted by MZP. The Chakma population data available at Mizoram at a Glance 2001 published by Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Mizoram government makes the picture pretty clear:

Therefore, it is up to the leadership of CYMA which is a celebrated organization and has won national awards for its community service, to choose between facts and fictions, and to decide whether it can risk its credibility by engaging itself in an unconstitutional act like headcounting members of a minority community which is actually unnecessary. 

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