Friday, 31 October 2014

An open Memo to PM of India from a Chakma

Dear Sir,

On the occasion of the 139th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, which is being commemorated today as National Unity Day, I am writing to place before you the painful situation facing the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh in the last 50 years.

As you are aware, in the early part of 1964, about 2,902 Chakma and Hajong families comprising 14,888 persons had migrated to India from the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Both the Chakmas and Hajongs are tribal communities. By faith, the Chakmas are Buddhists and the Hajongs are Hindus. These families were forced to migrate due to large scale communal violence by the majority Muslims and displacement caused by the construction of Kaptai Dam in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The Government of India after due consultation with all concerned settled the Chakmas and Hajongs in then North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA), present Arunachal Pradesh under a “definite plan of rehabilitation”.

Presently, the Chakmas reside in three districts namely Changlang, Papumpare and Namsai (formerly Lohit) in the state and their population is estimated to be about 55,000.

Chakmas are worst victims of partition

The Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh are among the worst victims of partition of India in 1947. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), presently in Bangladesh, has been home to the Chakmas for centuries. 

Before partition, the Chakmas were part of undivided India. However, the Bengal Boundary Commission tresonously awarded the CHT to Pakistan against the wishes of the Chakmas despite 97% of the people were non-Muslims. To become part of India, the Chakmas raised Indian Flag in the CHT when India attained freedom. On 21 August 1947, the Pakistani Army marched to CHT and pulled down the Indian Flag and unleashed a brutal crackdown on the Chakmas who were considered anti-national by Pakistan. The partition had cut the Chakmas apart and its disastrous effects are being felt even today, both in Bangladesh and India.

Present situation of the Chakmas

The policy of the Government of India was to give Indian Citizenship to the migrated Chakmas. However, they have not been granted Indian Citizenship even after 50 years of their migration to Arunachal Pradesh.
The State Government of Arunachal Pradesh is against granting of citizenship rights to the Chakmas in clear violation of the policy decision of the Government of India, Supreme Court of India order dated 9 January 1996 in National Human Rights Commission vs. Stateof Arunachal Pradesh [Writ Petition (Civil) 720/1995], recommendation of Rajya Sabha Committee on Petition of 1997, Election Commission of India orderdated 3 March 2004 (No. 23/ARUN/2003), Delhi High Court order dated 28September 2000 (Civil Writ Petition No.886 of 2000), Guwahati High Court orderdated 19 March 2013 (PIL No. 52 of 2010), etc.

On 10 August 2010, a Joint High Power Committee was formed by the Government of India to find a permanent solution. However, the Committee failed to come out with any solution due to lack of seriousness of the State Government.

As a result of non-recognition of Chakmas and Hajongs as citizens by State Government of Arunachal Pradesh, the Chakmas and Hajongs have been facing lot of difficulties including for livelihood.

The State Government refuses to extend any of the socio-economic programs, including the programs of the Government of India to them. The Chakmas are not covered under Public Distribution System. The elderly Chakmas and Hajongs do not get age old pension scheme, women and girls related schemes are not provided. The children do not get scholarship. The Chakmas face complete ban on seeking public employment in the State. The authorities refused to issue various official documents such as resident certificates, birth certificates etc which are required for applying these security forces jobs. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is also not extended to Chakmas.

In the absence of above stated facilities, the socio-economic condition of the Chakmas is getting worst each and every passing day. The Chakmas are agrarian families and largely dependent on agriculture for livelihood. However, agriculture is increasingly becoming unproductive due to poor monsoon and due to loss of agricultural land caused by flood/soil erosion every year.

The years of deprivation and denial is having negative consequences in particular to the youth and children, who are the future of the society. In the absence of employment opportunities a substantial number of youths and children are getting involved into drug addiction and other antisocial activities. While many youths, including girls, are going outside the State such as Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, etc in search of petty jobs, where they work in hostile conditions and remain extremely vulnerable to abuse. Poor economic condition is also driving Chakma children into child labour and dropping out of schools.

Had Sardar Patel been the PM situation of Chakmas would have been different!

On 13 August 1947, a Chakma delegation met Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and expressed their apprehension that the CHT will be awarded to East Bengal by the Boundary Commission. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the same day wrote an angry letter to Mountbatten expressing his indignation, calling the Radcliffe award “monstrous and a blatant breach of the terms of reference”. He warned that “I am urging the tribesmen to resist amalgamation with Pakistan by force, if necessary”.

Mountbatten was himself surprised by the ferocity of Sardar Patel’s reaction to the issue of CHT. In his memoirs he wrote: “The one man I had regarded as a real statesman with both his feet firmly on the ground, and a man of honour whose word was his bond, had turned out to be as hysterical as the rest. Candidly I was amazed that such a terrific crisis should have blown up over so small a matter. However, I have been long enough in India to realise that major crises are by no means confined to big matters.”

Sardar Patel wanted the CHT to be part of India. But he could not do much as he was only the Deputy. After CHT was awarded to Pakistan, a great Chakma leader and freedom fighter, Sneha Kumar Chakma escaped to India and sought help from Patel and Nehru. Patel was willing to provide even military assistance but he said he was only “deputy” to Prime Minister Nehru. On the advice of Sardar Patel when  a Chakma delegaiton led by Sneha Kumar Chakma met Pandit Nehru in September 1947. They told Pandit Nehru that the people of CHT were ready to resist the award of CHT to Pakistan and they were ready to fight and India must help them. Pandit Nehru got up in anger and shouted – “Do you propose to bring India again under foreign rule?

That decision sounded the death knell for the Chakmas and they had to unwillingly join Pakistan.


The Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh have been suffering for the last five decades. Sardar Patel lived merely three years after Independence. Had Sardar Patel been the PM or he lived little longer the geography of India and the situation of Chakmas would have been different!

As the country remembers the iron man of India today, I appeal for your urgent and personal intervention to provide justice to the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh by granting citizenship rights.  

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

Tejang Chakma

Monday, 28 July 2014

Government misuses the Khudiram Chakma case to deny rights to Chakmas

The Khudiram Chakma case has been the most unloved event of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh. Rightly so, this case, is being misused against all the Chakmas by all concerned to deny them rights. However, there is nothing wrong in the case. This is just another case where the appellant Khudiram Chakma was, unfortunately, in the losing side. 

In fact, Khudiram Chakma was forced to file the petition before the Guwahati High Court seeking relief due to imminent threat of eviction. One of the reasons for losing the case was falsified generalized evidence brought before the court. It is important to know the factual matrix of the case for a proper understanding of the case. The brief history of the case is given hereunder: 

“In 1984, one Khudiram Chakma filed a petition in the Guwahati High Court following eviction order served by the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh from a land measuring one square mile donated to them by the Local Raja namely Nigrumong Singpho of Damba from his private land. After donation of the land, Khudiram Chakma and another 56 families by dint of hard labour developed the jungle area which was a hilly uneven tract of land and got tremendous agricultural success. This success was even acknowledged by the Tirap District authorities by way of granting two Rice Hullar Units in the name of Khudiram Chakma. The Chakmas transformed the land into a truly self-sufficient village. Further, in 1975, a village panchayat of Joypur village was formed after election of the members. Khudiram Chakma was appointed as the Gaon Bura of the village. This was with the approval of the Government, in token of which a sanad dated 20.11.1975 was issued in his name. The Deputy Commissioner at Khonsa approved the transfer of the land and the Extra Assistant Commissioner, Miao by his memorandum No.MR S (A) n5/8648-51 dated 26.4.1970 even issued instructions against any attempt to allot the land to other and generally against any eviction of the Chakma families from the said land. However, in view of prosperity and growth of land the nearby villagers sought to dislodge Khudiram Chakma and other Chakma families by raising various disputes and the government served eviction order. With no other option left, Khudiram Chakma filed the petition at the Guwahati High Court. He lost the case after the State government was able to bring to the notice of the High Court about the generalized and false complaints against the Chakmas including indulging in procuring arms and ammunition and associating with anti-social elements. Although Khudiram Chakma lost the case, the High Court directed the State Government to give adequate compensation in the event of the Chakmas being evicted from the place considering the hard work they invested on the land. Aggrieved with the order the State Government approached the Supreme Court where again Khudiram Chakma lost the case. But the Supreme Court directed that an opportunity be afforded to Khudiram Chakma and other families by the Chief Minister and grant them appropriate relief. It is not known what relief, if any, was given to these families. Gegong Apang, who recently joined the BJP, was the then Chief Minister.”

The Khudiram Chakma case is being used to deny rights to the Chakmas on the ground that Chakmas are refugees and foreigners and they are not eligible for any rights. The misuse of the case is clear from various official documents. It is very important to clarify on the status of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh vis-à-vis the Kudiram Chakma case.

This so-called official position on the status of the Chakmas is no longer valid as noted by the Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment in 1996 and the recent judgment of the Guwahati High Court in 2013. Vide order and judgment dated 9 January 1996 the Supreme Court in the case of NHRC Vs State of Arunachal Pradesh & Anr settled the issue for once and all with respect to the Khudiram Chakma case. The Supreme Court held that “The contention of the first respondent that the ruling of this Court in Khudiram Chakma’s case has foreclosed the consideration of the citizenship of Chakmas is misconceived.” The Supreme Court had clarified that the “issue of citizenship was raised in a narrower context and was limited to Section 6-A(2)” of the Citizenship Act, 1955 pursuant to the Assam Accord in the Khudiram Chakma case. The Supreme Court further noted that “the Chakmas in that case, who were resident in Arunachal Pradesh, could not avail of the benefit of Section 6A of the Act which is a special provision for the citizenship of persons covered by the Assam Accord.”

Further, vide judgment dated 19 March 2013, the Guwahati High Court while dismissing the PIL No. 52 of 2010 of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union challenging the additional guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for revision of Electoral Rolls in Chakma inhabited areas in the State held that special laws like the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873 are not applicable to the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh. The relevant part of the observation of the High Court is reproduced below:

“Further, in view of the policy decision taken by the Government of India to settle the Chakma refugees in different States and also in Arunachal Pradesh in consultation with the authorities of the Arunachal Pradesh, and also to confer Indian citizenship, the contention of the petitioners that the aforesaid guidelines have the effect of violating the provisions of the law in terms of lack of Inner Line Permit or violation of provisions of Section 13 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 does not hold water. We are of the view that once a decision had been taken to settle these Chakma refugees in Arunachal Pradesh in consultation with the authorities of Arunachal Pradesh, they would become residents of Arunachal Pradesh and would not require the Inner Line Permit/Pass. Otherwise also, once they have been allowed to settle in Arunachal Pradesh, it would be deemed that such permits had been granted to them and in our considered opinion, any other view would negate and defeat the policy decision taken by the Government of India in consultation with the Arunachal Pradesh authorities to settle these Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh.”

It is pertinent to mention that the Government of India had settled the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh under a “definite plan” of rehabilitation and not for temporary settlement as often claimed to deny them rights. Clearly, it is the policy decision of the government of India to settle the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh. It is not the case that the Chakmas themselves went to the State and settled there of their own unlike many illegal immigrants from Bangladesh or elsewhere. This position is affirmed by the highest court of the country and the Guwahati High Court in the judgments noted above. Further, majority of the members of affected Chakma families are already citizens of India by virtue of being born in India and some of them have been exercising their right to franchise since 2004.

Note: Please visit to read the Khudiram Chakma case (Guwahati High Court & Supreme Court),  1996 judgment of the Supreme Court in NHRC Vs State of Arunachal Pradesh & Anr and 2013 judgment of the Guwahati High Court in PIL No. 52 of 2010 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Class X results: Diyun Govt Sec. School registers over 97 pass percentage despite appalling conditions

In the recently announced CBSE Class X results the Govt. Secondary School, Diyun in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh registered a pass percentage of over 97 percent despite appalling conditions of the school. As per information available with the CBSE at least 317 students, including over 120 girls, appeared for the CBSE Class X board examination out of which 309 students have passed, 5 students have been declared eligible for improvement of performance (EIOP) and 3 students were declared absent.

The high pass percentage is inspiring given that the school lies in utter government neglect. The school has no basic facilities and remains overcrowded as can be seen from the number of students who appeared in the Class X board examination.

This is the only secondary level school located in area inhabited by two marginalized Chakma and Hajong communities with their population of about 46,000. Out of the 317 students at least 267 are Chakmas and 27 Hajongs.  The Chakmas and Hajongs are neglected communities and they have been fighting for civil, political, social and economic rights for the last 50 years. Repeated pleas for improvement of facilities never receive a hearing as the school lies in Chakma/Hajong inhabited area. Even funds given by the Centre for construction/strengthening of infrastructure of the school have been misused or wasted.
A view of one of the classrooms, Photo taken in Jan, 2013

In the absence of secondary school, this school has to accommodate not only students from Diyun circle but also from other areas, resulting in overcrowding. This also has a negative impact on the quality of education. An analysis of the results shows that majority of the students’ CGPA (cumulative grade point average) was under 6.
Inside view of another classroom, Photo taken in Jan, 2013

Yet, it has to be acknowledged that despite all odds the performance of the Chakma and Hajong students is highly commendable. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Two minor Chakma tribal girls from Assam abducted and trafficked to Mumbai

Trafficking of minors and women from Assam continues with two more girls abducted from a remote village and trafficked to Mumbai.

On November 14, 2012, two minor Chakma tribal girls (names withheld), daughters of Purno Joy Chakma and Natun Chandra Chakma, were kidnapped by traffickers from Lanka Jan village under Lumding police station in Nagaon district. Both the victims are under 14 years of age.

Following a complaint lodged at the Noakuti police post by the parents, the police registered a case under Section 366(A), 366, 341 of the Indian Penal Code against the traffickers identified as  Suidul, Nur Ali, Ishan, Abdula, Shahajahan and Sobikul. Two of the traffickers, including Shahajahan, have been arrested and being interrogated.

Interrogation from the arrested traffickers reportedly revealed that the two minor girls were abducted from the village and taken to Dimapur, Nagaland to sell them. But, the deal could not materialize and subsequently the girls were sent to Mumbai, Maharashtra where they were reportedly sold.

Despite the revelations, the victims are yet to be traced in Mumbai, reflecting lack of prompt action by the police. The parents have been visiting the police station a number of times but the answers given by the police officials are reportedly far from encouraging.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

M-pen land dispute case

In the last few days, the situation in M-pen village at Miao circle in Changlang district of Aruanachal Pradesh has been tense ahead of the hearing scheduled at Itanagar Permanent Bench of the Guwahati High Court on 21 November 2012. The Court will hear the M-pen land dispute case between the Chakma and Singpho communities. Earlier last month, the hearing was postponed, but the Court directed the district administration not take any coercive measures against the petitioners (Chakmas). In other words, this implies that "status quo" has to be maintained.

A group of Singphos arrived the disputed village in a truck
In the meanwhile, however, the Singpho communities in a view to take possession of the disputed land constructed houses in and around the houses of the Chakmas at the disputed area in the last few days. There was no report of any clashes between the two groups unlike in 2010 but the Singpho people in groups visited the M-pen village with trucks armed with daos (swords) and constructed houses.

House construction underway
Reportedly, the district and local administrator remained mute spectators as the houses were being constructed in the disputed area. No police/security personnel were reportedly provided despite request by the Chakmas. This shows the utter failure of the district and local administration to honour the Court’s order.

Houses built nearby a Chakma house
The Chakmas and Singpho communities are at loggerhead over the M-pen land for quite some time. In 2010, clashes broke out between the two communities when the Singpho community tried to forcibly take possession of the land. Many were left injured from both sides. Both sides claim that the land belongs to them. The Singphos claimed that the land measuring about 60 acres belongs to one Ms Thuing Singpho as she had a Land Possession Certificate (LPC) issued by the District administration. However, the Chakmas dispute this. They claim that they have been living in the area since long and they are being forced to leave the area. They even dispute the LPC issued to her.

Construction of another house near a Chakma house in progress
Expressing his view in the M-pen land dispute case, David Chakma in his blog ( alleged that it is easy for those who have the backing of political leadership and the bureaucracy to get Land Possession Certificates (LPCs) anytime.

As per information available in the website of the Changlang District, ( one can apply for LPC by giving the description of the land for which possession certificate is applied along with supporting documents which includes certificate from the Forest Department, certificate from village council/village headman/ Vice President of Anchal Samity and sketch map of the land in triplicate (not to scale) duly countersigned by the village authority.

The above information suggests that the view expressed by David Chakma cannot be ruled out considering that Ms Thuing Singpho on whose name the LPC was issued by the district administration is close to the political leadership of the state. She is among the richest persons in Miao area and the  extent of influence she has over the local administration is immense. 

Some alleged that there was never any Singpho village in and around the disputed area, therefore question the certificate issued by the village headman/council. This is a valid point raised considering that only the village headman of a particular village who has the knowledge of the land can issue such certificate. Therefore, if the claim of non-existence of any Singpho village in the disputed area is true than someone from other area cannot claim LPC in a different area. It is also alleged that the houses have been built in urgency recently even without waiting for the Court's verdict is to show that the Singphos have been living there since long. 

Further, it is alleged that Ms Thuing Singpho has donated the disputed land to a Singpho Society. The question is can she donate the land in the event of the case being "subjudiced."
At this juncture it is not known who is speaking is truth. Whatever be the status of the land, the case is subjudice and the Court only will determine the status of the land in question. At the same time it is unfortunate that the district administration failed to honour the Court’s order.  

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

ABSU to convene National Seminar on Bodoland issues in New Delhi today

The All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) will convene a National Seminar on issues of Bodoland today at Mavalankar Auditorium, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi. The Seminar, entitled “Conflict in Bodoland, issue of influx and land alienation in Assam: Problems and Perspectives,” is scheduled to commence from 10.30 am to 3 pm.

The day long National Seminar is being organized in the backdrop of the recent riots in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Council (BTAD).

A Press invitation of the ABSU reads “The National Seminar is being conducted in view of current volatile situation in Assam due to conflicts, in particular in the Bodo dominated areas. The issue of influx and massive land alienation of the tribals have become burning topic today. The recent conflict in the lower districts of Assam and Bodoland in particular has sparked the flame of fresh mass movement against the illegal influx in the entire state. On the other hand, the question of rehabilitation of the displaced people has become a big challenge for the government of the day. Encompassing all these issues, an inclusive discussion has been felt most necessary to arrive at a rational conclusion of the problems.”

The Seminar, chaired by Prof. Sanjoy Hazarika, Director, Centre for North East Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, will be inaugurated by G.K. Pillai, former Home Secretary, Government of India and Lt. Gen. S. K. Singha, former Governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir will be the Chief Guest. Other speakers include R. N. Ravi (IPS), former Special Director of Intelligence Bureau; Dr. Chandan Mitra, Member of Parliament and Editor-in-Chief of The Pioneer; U. G. Brahma, former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha); Suhas Chakma, Director, Asian Centre for Human Rights, Lt. Gen, D. B. Shekatkar; B. G. Varghese, Columnist and Author; Dr Samujjal Bhatacharjya, Adviser, All Assam Students’ Union; Nitin Gokhle Editor Defence, NDTV; Samudra Gupta Kashyap, Senior Journalist, Indian Express; Sanjay Nahar, Founder President, SARHAD, Pune and many other intellectuals.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

JHPC members to meet in Itanagar for talks on the Chakma-Hajong issues

The much awaited second Joint High Power Committee (JHPC) meeting will be held at Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh on 26 October 2012. Initially, the JHPC was supposed to hold its second meeting on 11 October. But the meeting was rescheduled due to time-constrain.

The four-party committee, constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 10 August 2010 to find a solution to the vexed Chakma-Hajong issue in Arunachal Pradesh, includes the MHA, State Government of Arunachal Pradesh, All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) and the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh (CCRCHAP).

Shambhu Singh, Joint Secretary (North East), who is also the Chairman of the Committee, and Joint Secretary (Foreigner) will represent the Ministry of Home Affairs. The State Government of Arunachal Pradesh will be represented by R Negi, Commissioner (Home), the Secretary (Political), the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, K Riram, OSD to the Chief Minister and Deputy Commissioners of Changlang, Papumpare and Lohit. While the Arunachal Pradesh Students Union will be represented by the President, Takam Tatung, Nabam Tamar (Vice-President), Tujum Poyom (General Secretary), T. T. Tara (Legal Adviser) and Toni Pertin (Legal Adviser). The Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh will be represented by Santosh Chakma, General Secretary, Arindam Dewan and three others.

The first meeting of the JHPC was held in January this year. It was mutually decided in the meeting that a joint survey will be conducted by the CCRCHAP and AAPSU to identify the Chakmas and Hajongs who migrated during 1964-69.