Chakma-Arunachal

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Historical Background:

There are about 30,000 Chakmas and Hajongs in Arunachal Pradesh, where they were settled way back in the 1960's, when they were displaced by the construction of a Dam across the Borgang River (now Karnaphuli) at Kaptai in the Jummaland (Chittagong Hill Tracts – CHT) and Maimansingh district of Bangladesh. Here again the political leaders Arunachal Pradesh treat them as second-class citizens. They have been denied citizenship, though the Government of India settled them there as refugees more than 43 years ago. Thousands of Hindu Bengali migrated illegally in the state Tripura and West Bengal, India from 1950 to March 1971, have been granted citizenship, while the Chakmas and Hajongs were accepted as refugees and settled in India by the Government, but have not yet got citizenship.

From the beginning the Pakistanis discriminated against the Chakma people, in jobs, business and education. The Government of Pakistan amended the 1900 Act several times, against the wishes of the Jumma people in Jummaland. The Government then constructed a dam on the Borgang River at Kaptai, inundating 1,036 square kilometres of land including the Royal Palace of the Chakma King and displacing about 200,000 Chakmas. It was these Chakmas and Hajons about 30,000 had migrated to Arunachal Pradesh via Mizoram and Assam, India in 1964 from the Jummaland in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and were rehabilitated by the Government of India in the then North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), now Arunachal Pradesh (AP). The Chakmas and Hajongs population is mainly concentrated in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh i.e. Subansiri, Lohit and Tirap (now Changlang). The Changlang district has the majority of Chakmas and Hajongs population. At present the population is stated more than 100,000 in 2006.

Even after 43 years of their migration, they have not been granted Indian Citizenship. As per the Assam Accord of 1985, all the migrants who had settled in Assam, on or before January 1, 1966, were ipso-facto citizens of India. These migrants were facing lot of difficulties as they were not considered Indian citizens. Instead of granting citizenship, the Government of AP banned all facilities including employment, admission to schools, medical facilities, trade and business and forcefully collected their temporary ration card which given by Government. Many villages burnt into ashes as Bijoypur, Madhupur, etc. in 1991 by the State sponsored Student Unit. The East India Buddhist Association (EIBA) led by Venerable Pragya Jyoti, General Secretary of the organisation moved to New Delhi in order to protest and protect the Chakmas of AP. Since AP was an Union Territory, they getting every facility as Indian. Only after 1979, when AP was given State status, Chakmas and Hajongs were harassed and treated as refugees. Since 1980, no any Chakmas or Hajongs has been given employment. The Government of AP circular vide CS/PR-154/89/99, had banned the issue of ration cards to them in Changlang district. Again in 1994, the Government of AP expressed its inability to provide coverage of public distribution systems to Chakmas and Hajongs and asked them to surrender all the ration cards already held by them. Only 6-7 persons are employed in Government Service. All of them have adopted agriculture as major source of livelihood. Chakmas and Hajongs students are not getting any monetary help either from the Central or State Government as they do not possess a Scheduled Tribe Certificate.

On 27th February, 1992, Shri M.M. Jacob, Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, had answered to the Lok Sabha that in terms of Assam Accord, all person, who came and settled prior to 1 January 1966 were given Indian Citizenship. Further, he informed the House that on the basis of Assam Accord, all those who migrated prior to 1.1.1966 are deemed to be Indian Citizens and those who came after 25.3.1971 are not to be accorded Indian Citizenship. On this basis, Chakmas and Hajongs living in Assam, Tripura and Mizoram have been recognized as Indian Citizen as well as Scheduled Tribes. Shri Jacob had reiterated the same again and mentioned,

the general administration in the State will have to be convinced that the burden of

rehabilitation of these refugees will have to be shared by the country as a whole”.


On September 8, 1995, Shri Gegong Apang, Chief Minister of AP requested to the Prime Minister to take steps immediately to deport Chakma and Hajongs from the state. Government has also instigated the police department and the law and order department to help remove the Chakmas and Hajongs out of AP as soon as possible.

Between 1964 and 1969, more than 1,40,000 Chakmas, Hajongs and Hindu Bengalis came into Assam. Out of 1,40,000, about 30,000 refugees were sent to NEFA and the rest Hindu Bengalis settled them to Andaman Nichobar Island by the Government of India. Those who settled in Andaman, they got Indian citizens as well as electing a Member of the Parliament as their representative. During their settlement in 1964, the Chakmas and Hajongs have been given loans and land by the Government and State Government at one point itself recommended that these people should be given citizenship.

Again, on October, 1994 complaint regarding stoppage of ration card, ban on employment and economic blockade of the Chakma settlements was made to the National Human Rights Commission(NHRC). The NHRC had asked the State Government to submit the Report but almost after a year, there is no report. The Supreme Court heard the case of complaint and passed an interim order on 2.11.95 that they were not citizens because no citizenship had been granted but they were entitled to citizenship under a particular section of the Citizenship Act. The Supreme Court also directed in the interim order that even if they were not citizens, their lives and limbs must be protected and they are entitled to their lives and limbs and that they cannot be evicted from their own places. On 9.1.96, a final order was passed directing to the State Government (i) not to take any action to evict them except under due process of law (ii) application for citizenship should be looked into and sent to the Central Government (iii) to give police force, Central Police for the protection of those people on the demand of State Government.

A high level committee was constituted on 29.12.95 under the Home Minister of which the Chief Minister is also a member to decide this issue and find out what needs to be done in this particular issue. The committee could not go to the State because there was no cooperation from the State Government till this review petition has been disposed of by the Supreme Court. The contention of the State Government is that they had not been consulted when these people were settled. The contention of the Chief Minister was that they had been living there for the last 31 years. Citizenship can be given to them but they should be settled outside his State.

On 3 November, 1996, the views made by the Charkmas and Hajongs that they migrated from erstwhile East Pakistan were displaced by the Kaptai Hydro Power Project, 1964. Since a large number of refugees had taken shelter in Assam, the State Government had expressed its inability to rehabilitate all of them and requested assistance in this regard from certain other States. They were also allotted some land in consultation with local tribals. The Government of India had also sanctioned rehabilitation assistance Rs.4,200/- per family. In recent years, relationship between citizens of AP and Chakmas and Hajongs have deteriorated, and the later have complained that they are being subjected to repressive measures with a view to forcibly expel them from the State of AP. The Chakmas have been residing in the State for more than three decades having developed close social, religious, cultural and economic ties. To uproot them at this stage would be both impracticable and inhuman.

In August, 1994, the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union (AAPSU), a student wing of the State Governmentdemanded the expulsion of all foreigners including the Chakma/Hajong refugees from AP. The Central Government has been advising the State Government to take all necessary steps for providing security to all residents including Chakmas/Hajongs and to take steps to control the explosive and worsening situation.

On 9th January 1996, the observations of the Supreme Court in the case of National Human Right Commission Vs. State of Arunachal Pradesh and Union of India that the Judgement delivered :-

There is no doubt that Chakmas and Hajongs who migrated from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1964 first settled down in the State of Assam and shifted to areas which now fall within the State of AP. They have settled there since the last about three decades and raised their families in the said State. Their children have married and they too have had children. Thus, a large number of them were born in the State itself. If a person satisfies the requirements of Section 5 of the Citizenship Act, he/she can be registered as a citizen of India. The procedure to be followed in processing such requests has been outlined in part II of the Rules. According to these Rules, application for registration has to be made in the prescribed form, duly affirmed, to the Collector within whose jurisdiction he resides. Under Rule 9, the Collector is expected to transmit every application under Section 5 (1)(a) of the Act to the Central Government. The Collector has merely to receive the application and forward it to the Central Government. The Deputy Commissioner or Collector, who receives the application should be directed to forward the same to the Central Government to enable it to decide the request on merit.

The Supreme Court has further added that no person can be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. Thus, the State is bound to protect the life and liberty of every human being, be he a citizen or otherwise. The State is duty bound to protect the threatened group and if it fails to do so, it will fail to perform its Constitutional as well as statutory obligations. The State Government must act impartially and carry out its legal obligations to safeguard the life, health and well-being of Chakmas and Hajongs residing in the State without being inhibited by local politics.”


The Supreme Court, accordingly, directed that -

(i)The State of AP shall ensure that the life and personal liberty of each and every Chakmas and Hajongs residing within the State shall be protected and any attempt to forcibly evict or drive them out of the State by organized groups shall be repelled.

(ii) The Chakmas and Hajongs shall not be evicted from their homes and shall not be denied domestic life and comfort therein except in accordance with law.

(iii) The quit notices and ultimatums issued by the AAPSU and any other group which tantamount to threats to the life and liberty of each and every Chakma and Hajongs should be dealt with by the State of AP in accordance with law.

(iv)The application made for registration as citizen of India by the Chakmas and Hajongs shall be forwarded by the Collector or the Deputy Commissioner who receives then under the relevant Rule with or without enquiry, as the case may be to the Central Government for its consideration in accordance with law.


Present Status:

In 2002, the state Government of AP granted citizenship and Scheduled Tribe status to the 90 Tibetan families of Shyo village living in Tawang district bordering China. They also had fled to AP in 1960's.

On 31st March, 2003, the Election Commission of India,s notification that the Special Revision of electoral roll for enrolment of the Chakmas and Hajongs into the voter lists. The Election Commission issued the notification after the AP State Election Commission officials systematically flouted the Delhi High Court judgement of 28 September, 2000 (CPR no. 886 of 2000) for enrolment of eligible Chakmas and Hajongs voters into the electoral rolls.

While examining's 15th to 19th periodic reports (CERD/C/IND/19), it is essential to keep in mind that given the federal nature of the country, the States (provinces) have legislative and administrative powers including maintenance of law and order, education, health care etc. Therefore, indigenous/tribal peoples, the Dalits and the minorities also face discrimination because of the action of the State governments.

On the denial of the applicability of Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, India at the outset of its reports recognizes “diverse origin” (para 3) of its peoples and India's “ethnic, religious, linguistic and economic diversity” (para 6). After having recognized the existence of one of the grounds of racial discrimination i.e. discrimination on “ethnic origin”, it denies applicability of Article 1 of the Convention. The government of cannot probate and reprobate at the same time.

The government of India's denial of the existence of racial discrimination is inconsistent with the directions of constitutional bodies like the Election Commission of India. In its report (para 74), the government of referred to inclusion of names of 1,497 Chakmas and Hajongs into electoral rolls in AP. With regard to the exclusion of the same Chakmas and Hajongs eligible voters from electoral rolls in AP, the Election Commission of India in its order No. 23/ARUN/2003 of 3 March 2004 held that they “have not been included in the electoral rolls mainly for the reason that they belong to the Chakma tribe/race (emphasis ours)


Article 5 (c): Right to participate in elections

The government of India in its report highlights enrolment of 1,497 Chakmas and Hajongs voters in the electoral rolls in AP. But it does not mention that over 14,000 eligible Chakma and Hajong voters continued to be denied enrolment in the electoral rolls because of the blatant violations of the directions of the Election Commission of India by the State government of AP. The government of India also failed to mention that out of 4,627 Chakmas and Hajongs who had submitted citizenship applications in 1997-1998 pursuant to the Supreme Court of India's judgement in the case of National Human Rights Commission versus State of AP & Another (W.P. (c) No. 720 of 1995) on 9 January 1996, the Union government of India failed to determine even a single application until today. This is a clear case of discrimination considering that the government of has been granting citizenship rights to the Hindu refugees who migrated to Rajasthan much later than the Chakmas and Hajongs.


Culture:

Culturally, the Chakmas are in many ways more south-east Asian than South Asian. The traditional dress for women called “Pinon and Hadi” and for men “Dudi and special shirt made by women”.

Chakma folk literature is quite rich. It has many folklores and fables. A traditional folk song of the Chakmas is “Ubha-geet”. Proverbs and traditional sayings are a unique feature of the Chakma language. These sayings mainly centre on farming, animals and birds, nature, society, religion and the mystery of the human body. These sayings in the Chakma language are called “Dagwa Kadha”. The popular form of dance is characteristic of the Chakma community is Called “Bizu”. The “Bi” means bye and “Zu” welcome. It means that they farewell the old year and welcome the new year. Its denotes that end of the Chakma calendar year. During this period, the Chakmas organise joins as well as individual festival in their own home. The perform singing and dancing competition to bid good-bye to the year just being ended and welcome the new year. The dance is beautifully orchestrated with the rhythm playing of what is known as “Henggarang, Baji, Singya and Duduk” sorts of flutes.


Economic Aspects:

Traditionally, the Chakmas lifestyle was closely linked with hill agriculture or shifting cultivation (Jhum cultivation). But, the Chakmas in AP, mostly depending on plain agriculture land. Very few of them practising Jhum cultivation and living in three districts Lohit, Subansiri and Tirap (now Changlang). Some of them are also cultivated land in river valleys. They had a well-developed system of land rights, which differed sharply from those in the other plains areas. And also depending on trading and business with neighbouring system of Assam.

According to observers, the Chakmas living standard of cultivators in the AP is relatively high. Their production are rice and vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, chilly, etc. were important crops. The bamboo was essential as building material. The bamboo had uses in many purposes that the Chakma lifestyle has been described as a “Bamboo Civilisation”. At the present day, it is very difficult for them to find bamboo in the nearest, they have to go far to collect from the deep forest. As mentioned above that they are still deprived from job facilities in the state. Their problem was intensified by the state government policy of denial of Indian Citizen. Population is increase and the scarcity of land also increased sharply, their lifestyle threatened further.


Social System:

Chakmas of AP distinguish themselves from surrounding groups as Khamtis, Tangsa and Simpos by their language. Although there are indications that Chakmas used to speak a Tibeto-Burman language, their present language is Indo-European. It is closely related in structure to Assamese from which it differs by a distinct vocabulary. Most Chakmas are bilingual and speak Chakmas, Hindi, English and Assamese. The Chakma language has its own script, although today this is not commonly used. In AP, they are studying both English and Hind i in the school. Chakma literature runs from the oral traditions of the “Genghuli” singers through literary periodicals to modern poetry. Another modern art form in which Chakmas made their mark is painting.


Religion:

The vast majority of Chakmas are Buddhists, and they form the largest Buddhist population in AP. The Buddhist population is the second largest groups in the state including Chakma, Khamti, Simpo and Tibetan. Integrated in their Buddhist practice are older religious elements. One of their annual highlights is the “Bizu festival” held in April as observed as “New Year Eva”. The religious festival they observed as Lord Buddha birth anniversary which called “Buddha Purnima, Ashari Purnima, Madu Purnima, Katincivor Dhan”, etc. Some spiritual Buddhist monks are Late Venerable Gyanajyoti, Late Venerable Pandita, Late Venerable Vipassi, Venerable Priyojoti and so on.


Chakma language:

Chakma language is more the most advanced of the tribal languages in Arunachal. Some historical document as “Puthis”are exist in this language. One of them, “Chadigang Chara Pala” was written on palm leaf. This puthi reveals that the Chakmas originated in Nepal and after roaming about in several south-east Asian countries came to old Burma and Arakan before settling in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Their original name was “Thek” in the Arakani language they were called “Chak and Dainak” in the dialect Chakma language is called “Chagma”.

The alphabets of the Chakma language are similar to the alphabets of Sinhalese, Burmese, old Pali, Thailand's Khmer, Annam Laos, Cambodia and Siam. Tara, the scripture of the Chakmas, is written in the Burmese script. When spoken, the Chakma alphabet has a soft sound and is generally articulated from the bottom of the tongue. It is primarily based on sound and has a Chinese tone. In many respects (including philology, prosody, folklore, idioms and phonology) it is close to Pali, Assamese and Bengali. Many sounds of Pali and Burmese language are also available in the Chakma language. Efforts are now being made to write the Chakma language in the Burmese script. A book of primary reading in Chakma has also been published from Rangamati. Its author is Mr. Nayanram Chakma. The cinema films published in Arunachal by the Chakmas are Haabi-Daabi and Tanyabi.

There are many songs written in the Chakma language. These have been composed in colloquial Chakma. The language of the book “Gojen Lama” written by the Chakma famous poet “Shivcharan” in 1777. Radhaman- Dhanpudi and Chadigang Chara Pala are two important lyrical poems. The metres used in Chakmas and Bangla verse are almost similar. The syntax of the two languages are also identical. The numbers in Chakma language are pronounced as in Pali and Bangla. The minus symbol in Chakma is called “Farak”, the plus symbol is “Jora” and the sign of multiplication is called “Duna”. The other symbols are the same in both languages. In the Chakma language S is called “Ek Fudo”, T is called “Dvifudo and U is called “Chan Fudo”. In conjugation and declension present day Chakma language is close to Pali, Burmese, Bangla, Assamese, Rajbangshi, Garo, Sangma and Chittagonian. This language has 6 regional forms. Within the Chakmas different clans have their distinct dialects.