By Paritosh Chakma
It is a fact which no one can deny: Mizoram’s Chakma community’s educational condition has hit rock bottom despite Mizoram emerging as one of the outstanding performers. Mizoram's literacy rate rose rapidly after independence: from 31.14% in 1951 to 88.8% in 2001 to 91.33% in 2011. But as of 2001 Chakmas’ literacy rate stood at lowly 45.3%. The Census 2001 recorded, “Chakma has registered the lowest literacy of 45.3 per cent, with male and female literacy at 56.2 per cent and 33.6 per cent respectively.” If this was shameful, the results in 2011 were worst. Though a compact data for Chakma is not yet available, the Census 2011 identified Lawngtlai as the district having the lowest (59.87 percent) literacy rate in the state. To put into perspective, Lawngtlai district comprises of the areas inhabited by two minority tribes who govern themselves – the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) and Lai Autonomous District Council (LADC). Not only this; the literacy rate of Lawngtlai district in fact decreased by 0.75 percent point in 2011 over 2001. This clearly proves the total failure of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan in these minority dominated areas.
|A school for Chakma students in rural Mizoram. Photo source: Seven Sisters Project, http://sevensistersproject.com/the-chakmas-of-mizoram/|
But the Mizoram state is neither ashamed nor moved. Instead of improving the minorities’ lot, the officials resort to telling lies. When asked by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) to explain the high number of Out of School Children (OoSC) (which stood at 4,146) in the age group of 6-14 years during 2010-2011, the State Project Director of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan told the CAG that “number of OoSC is fluctuating year by year mainly due to the repatriation of Bru and Chakma communities from neighbouring States and Countries and landless labourers of Kolasib district, who were not permanently settled in the State.” (see Audit Report for the year ended 31 March 2011 (Civil, Revenue & Commercial) for the state of Mizoram, Chapter I Performance Review, Page 17). The question is when was any Chakma repatriated “from neighbouring States and Countries”? Yet, the SSA State Project Director of Mizoram had the audacity to mislead the CAG, a constitutional body.
“Majority of the children who are not attending schools belonged to Chakma and Bru as the two communities are nomadic tribes. It is hard to bring their children to schools due to their shifting from one village to another often.”
To call the Chakmas “nomads” is plainly racist and easiest way to evade responsibility towards these communities.
And, why did the education officials resort to telling lies?
The answer to this query may be found in the step motherly treatment meted out by the state government of Mizoram to the minorities, chiefly the Chakmas. In March 2015, the Mizoram government changed the rules of selection of candidates for medical and engineering courses only to deprive the Chakma students of seat under Mizoram state quota. The Mizoram (Selection of Candidates for Higher Technical Courses) (Sixth Amendment) Rules, 2015, notified on 24th March, 2015, removed the Chakmas from Category I which is now reserved exclusively for Mizo students. This was done after 38 brilliant Chakma students qualified, through a competitive examination, for selection for medical and engineering courses from the pool of Mizoram state seats reserved in colleges across India. (For details, read my earlier blog, Mizoram: creating unequal citizens and conflicts)
The policy is: first deprive the Chakmas, then deny the act of deprivation, and if still that does not work in your favour, snatch the opportunities from Chakmas through arbitrary use of law. The worst thing is that this forms the State Policy on Chakmas in the state.