Monday, February 8, 2016

TUICHAWNG CHHUAH: Forcible evictions of Chakma minorities after Mizo student body diktat

By Paritosh Chakma

On 5 February 2016 (Friday), the Chakma students residing in Delhi staged a spirited protest under  the banner of the All India Chakma Students’ Union (AICSU) at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi against the Mizoram government. The Chakma students were protesting against illegal eviction of the Tuichawng Chhuah village (Chakmas call it “Toijongdor”) in Lunglei district, despite a stay order from the Guwahati High Court.

The Tuichawng Chhuah village has 49 families consisting of 224 persons. All of them are Chakma minorities.

Mizo Students Union’s diktat: Chakmas should leave Tuichawng Chhuah village because they had asked them to leave

It all started with a visit by a powerful student body of the majority community to a poor impoverished village inhabited by minority. On 21 November 2015, three leaders of Mizo Students Union (MSU) reportedly visited Tuichawng Chhuah along with two policemen. The MSU leaders wanted to know how they (Chakmas) were living there without permission and issued a verbal diktat to the 49 Chakma families to voluntarily leave the village by 31st December 2015!

The Mizo student body followed up the diktat with another visit by 15 leaders of MSU on 1st December 2015 and allegedly threatened to burn the village. Vanglaini, largest circulated Mizo daily, on 3rd December 2015 reported about the eviction notice by the MSU (though not in too many words).

The wish of the MSU became the command for officials. On 2 December 2015, two officials from the Revenue department visited Tuichawng Chhuah. On 13 December 2015, Mr Lalchhanhima, Block Development Officer (BDO) of Lungsen paid a visit.

On 15 December 2015, Shri Ashish Madhaorao More, Deputy Commissioner, Lunglei district  convened a high-level meeting at his office chamber in which the Block Development Officer, Sub Divisional Officer, Superintendent of Police, Village Council President of Tuichawng and leaders of Mizo Students Union attended. In that meeting, MSU leaders had allegedly told that they are going ahead with the eviction no matter what the facts are because they had asked the Chakmas to leave.

Then came the eviction notice from the Lunglei district administration. Eviction order No. K.23012/2/2013-DCL© dated 17.12.2015 issued by Mr Rothuama, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Lunglei district, Lunglei, Mizoram directing The President, Village Council, Tuichawng to ask the 49 Chakma families of Tuichawng Chhuah to vacate the village at the earliest. The eviction notice made no mention of why should the Chakmas were being asked to vacate?

Worst, on 21 December 2015, two officials from Local Administration Department (LAD), Lunglei forcibly collected signatures from the villagers of Tuichawng Chhuah on documents which stated that they are living on unauthorized settlement!

Guwahati High Court stay order

On 8 January 2016, the Guwahati High Court stayed the eviction notice dated 17 December 2015 issued by the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Lunglei district. The eviction notice was challenged by the Chakma villagers (writ petition W.P. (C) No. 134 of 2016).

But the Mizoram government officials think that they are above the rule of law and the judiciary. On 21 January 2016, Mr C Thatkgunga, Secretary to the Government of Mizoram, Local Administration Department issued fresh eviction order under Section 26(2)(a) of the Lushai Hill District (Village Councils) Act, 1953 directing Chakmas of Tuichawng Chhuah to vacate the village within one month.

It is a shame that the District administration sent two officials to threaten the Chakmas on the Republic Day (26th January 2016). When the whole nation was celebrating freedom, Chakma minorities were being threatened with eviction. Two officials wanted to forcibly obtain the signatures from the terrified villagers on a document which stated that they were staying on illegal land.

The great Indian Republic should be ashamed of such repression on Chakma minorities in Mizoram.

Illegal evictions: Tuichawng Chhuah village getting government facilities since 1977

As per as available official records, the Tuichawng Chhuah villagers have been provided various assistance by the Government of Mizoram since 1977 (although the village had been in existence much before) which included the following:

  • Garden Passes since 1977, 
  • financial assistance for sustainable livelihood under New Land Use Policy (NLUP) programme since 1991
  • a primary school under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) established in 2004
  • electricity since 2012
  • Villagers enrolled in Electoral Rolls and exercise their voting rights
  • Ration Cards
  • NREGS job cards

It is surprising under what situation they are being dubbed as illegal and asked to vacate their village where they have been living for generations.

Dilip Chakma, President, All India Chakma Students’ Union (AICSU) explains:

“The action of the Government of Mizoram to evict the 49 Chakma minority families of Tuichawng Chhuah is totally illegal and unconstitutional and being done to satisfy the Mizo Students Union (MSU). This stands exposed from the eviction notice dated 21.1.2016 of the Local Administration Department which was marked to the President of Mizo Students Union (MSU) General Headquarters Aizawl and the President, MSU Sub Headquarters, Lunglei who have no locus standi in the eyes of the law pertaining to the eviction notice.”

It is clear the Chakmas are being targeted for being minorities. Tuichawng Chhuah is not an isolated incident. Earlier on 30 June 2013, the Mizo Students Union (MSU) with the support of the Mizoram Police illegally evicted 48 Chakma families from Sibinesora village under Lungsen Village Council area in Lunglei district. Vanglaini dt 1st July 2013 reported about the eviction of Sibinasora village by MSU

The Sibinesora eviction of 2013 was outrageously illegal. The villagers were getting all sorts of facilities, incuding school, ration card, voting rights, assistance under NLUP, et. There was no eviction notice from the Government of Mizoram, but the MSU served an eviction notice and evicted the 48 Chakma families.

Emboldened by their success, the MSU is now trying to evict the Chakma families of Tuichawng Chhuah. But unlike the Sibinesora incident, the matter of Tuichawng Chhuah is now under the consideration of the Guwahati High Court. 

I sincerely believe that Chakmas of Tuichawng Chhuah will get justice and the Guwahati High Court will once again tell loud and clear that no body is above the rule of law.

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