Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Admission hangs in balance for Chakma students at Diyun Govt Secondary School

By Tejang Chakma

Prasanta Chakma (name changed) has passed class VIII from his village middle school at Bijoypur under Bordumsa circle under Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh. Now he is staying at relatives’ place at Diyun awaiting admission to Class IX at Government Secondary School at Diyun. On July 26, 2011, he approached the Government Secondary School for admission in class IX but denied admission.

Prasanta Chakma is not the only one who has been trying to get admission to class IX at the Government Secondary School, Diyun. There are many students from Chakma villages from other blocks (not under Diyun circle) such as Deban, Dharmapur, etc who are denied admission when the admission process got underway yesterday.

The admission process for class IX at Diyun Government Secondary School got underway on 26 July. The admission process was going on smoothly, but in the middle of it, the Headmaster of the school was called for a meeting at the office of the Extra Assistant Commissioner (EAC). What has transpired at the meeting, attended by officials and local leaders, is not known. But, the admission was reportedly stopped after the headmaster return to the school. Only about 60 students have been admitted. The rest of the students are asked to come on the following days, but the students feel they will not be admitted.

There are over 200 students, both from Diyun circle and outside, who are seeking admission at Diyun school in this academic session. The list also includes students who are not given admission during the previous academic sessions.

Diyun School is the only secondary level school in the Chakma majority areas. There are two other higher schools at Sompoi and Innao under the circle which are not easily accessible to the Chakma students. As on 26 July, admission has not started in these two schools. But it is expected that at least Chakma students outside Diyun circle will not be given admission in these two schools.

Chakma students from outside Diyun circle such as Bijoypur, Deban, M-Pen, Dharmapur, etc are not given admission in higher schools at their areas, forcing these students, who are mostly poor, to come to Diyun for admission. However, prior to the admission process begun it was reported that Chakma students from outside Diyun circle will not be given admission. The school decided to admit outside students during the admission process which started on 26 July only reportedly after direction from higher authorities in Changlang district.

No doubt, admitting large number of students at the school will affect the quality of education, but what is more important is the future of these students. With creation of additional rooms, the problem of overcrowding can be sorted out. There is no lack of fund. The Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India has already sanctioned grant for construction of school buildings for Diyun Secondary school recently. 

It will be highly unfortunate if these students are denied admission especially considering the fact that last month the Centre has decided to extend the provisions of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act to secondary level.

Politics of any nature should not be allowed to play with the lives of these students. There should not be any discrimination in accessing education.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

NHRC demands report on exodus of Chakmas in four weeks

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday issued notice to the Assam government seeking report on the exodus of Chakma tribals due to threats by people belonging to Muslim community from No.3 Sarthagaon Chettongnala Chakma Basti under Lumding police station in Nagaon district of Assam in June 2011.

Taking cognisance of a complaint filed by a leading human rights organization (ACHR), the NHRC has asked the Chief Secretary of Assam to submit the action taken report within four weeks.

There are about 18 Chakma families consisting of about 100 people at No.3 Sarthagaon Chettongnala Chakma Basti under Lumding police station. These villagers have been living in the area since long.

Since 2nd week of June 2011, the entire families of No.3 Sarthagaon Chettongnala Chakma Basti village were forced to flee to nearby jungles due to constant threats by people belonging to Muslim community. The tribal victims alleged that the people belonging to the Muslim community wanted to grab their land since long. In this regard, the Chakma families were often threatened and subjected to humiliation in the village or in the market place.

The matter worsened after two Chakmas identified as Kalachand Chakma (50 years) and Krishna Kumar Chakma (40 years) were taken to Muslim inhabited village, where they were allegedly tied to a tree and severely beaten up. Some of the accused have been identified as Tonu, Mayajul, Rahimuddin, Rafique and Kabir. The victims were detained overnight and handed over to the Nkhuti police outpost by the accused on the next day. The two victims sustained injuries on their bodies including bleeding from their nose and mouth and swelling on their bodies. However, the police did not provide any medical treatment to the victims.

After the beating of the two persons, the Muslim people repeatedly visited the village with lethal weapons like dao, sword, spear etc and allegedly threatened the villagers to leave the village. This was informed to the police by the villagers. However, no action has been taken against the accused persons. Finding no other alternative, the entire villagers, fled to the jungles fearing for their lives.

The villagers who fled to the jungles included elderly, women (including pregnant women), children and infants were forced to stay in the jungle in inhospitable conditions for about 15 days. They could not come out due to fear. As a result newly born babies, pregnant and old women suffered the most due to lack of food and other necessities including medical care.

On June 26, 2011, a complaint was filed at the Lumding police station. But, the police only asked the victims to return to their village without providing any escorts and protection. The police failed to take action including arresting the accused persons. The police even failed to investigate the beating of two Chakma tribals despite they were brought to the police post by the accused themselves.

Presently, the villagers returned to the village, but they are living under constant fear due to lack of protection. The fear increased after the complaint was filed with the police station.

It is worth mentioning that three Chakma tribals, including a woman, were killed and three others seriously injured by suspected Bangladeshi infiltrators in an encroachment attempt at Lonkaijan Bidyadhar Chakma Basti under Diphu police station in neighboring in Karbi Anglong district in May 2007. The gang had come from Nagaon district and tried to evict the villagers. The victims were killed when they resisted the move.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Timeline: NLFT attacks on the Chakmas?

18 July 2011:         Six Chakmas identified as Arun Chakma (35), Ganja Chakma (45), Sudhyajoy Chakma (35), Ratanjoy Chakma (27), Baisakh Chakma (30) and Sumanta Chakma (30) were kidnapped by banned NLFT at gunpoint from Debendra Karbari Para, 16 km from the Chhamau police station in Dhalai district of Tripura. Two others identified as Kahindra Tripura and Fallenjoy Tripura were also kidnapped along with the Chakmas. The militants demanded 10 lakhs as ransom for their safe release.

30 June 2011:       Golamani Chakma (23) was kidnapped by NLFT cadres from his house in Ujanbari Reang Para under Nutun Bazar police station in South Tripura district. Five Reang tribals were also kidnapped along with Golamani Chakma.

20 April 2010:        Sankar Bijoy Chakma of Apanbooli village in Dhalai District was kidnapped by six suspected NLFT militants.

14 Nov’ 2009:          Businessman Laxmi Charan Chakma (39) was abducted at gunpoint by NLFT militants from Thalcherra market under Dharamanagar subdivision in North Tripura District.

1 Oct’ 2009:         Six Chakmas identified as Jayanta Bikash Chakma, Shanti Ranjan Chakma, Janmachandra Chakma, Jyotiranjan Chakma, Koloni Mohan Chakma and Tangula Chakma were abducted by NLFT militants from Raishyabari village in Dhalai district. Three of them were released with a demand note of Rs 5 lakh for safe release of the others.

15 Dec’ 2007:       Damodhar Chakma (19) was abducted at gunpoint by from Upanbalipara  under Longthorai Valley subdivision in North Tripura district. Though NLFT was not involved, its splinter organization that broke off from the NLFT was alleged to be behind the kidnapping.

10 May 2005:      Five Chakma tribals identified as Ashok Kumar Chakma (40), Swapanjay Chakma (28), Bakrabahu Chakma (25), Sushanta Chakma (18) and Arogya Chakma were massacred by NLFT militants in Jorendrapara and Madanjaypara village under Raisyabari police station in Dhalai district. Another five Chakmas, including two women, sustained serious bullet injuries and at least 20 houses were burnt to ashes. The Chakma villagers were attacked in retaliation after the Chakmas killed a NLFT militant in February 2005 and their refusal to pay taxes to the NLFT.

8 Jan’ 2005:          Annaram Chakma was found dead from Gaynama jungle under Chhawmanu police station in Dhalai district after he was kidnapped in October 2004. He was killed on his failure to pay the ranson demanded by the NLFT.

11 March 2004:     Six Chakma tribal women, including two minor girls, were gang raped and one Gunachitra Chakma was beaten to death on the spot by the NLFT militants at Baisyaram Karbaripara, a Chakma dominated tribal village in Chhwamanu in Dhalai district. 14 more Chakmas were severely beaten up. First, the militants demanded food from the villagers and then asked the male folks to stand in a line, and were brutally beaten. Thereafter, the militants entered into the houses and started raping the girls and housewives. Before leaving, the militants also looted the belongings of the villagers.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Diyun township in Arunachal deserves a bank

Diyun, a small township on the rise, in Arunachal Pradesh is the economic centre for a population of over 30,000. Diyun town is the headquarter of Diyun Circle under the Diyun-Bordumsa Block in Changlang district. There are 31 villages under Diyun circle according to the 2001 census.

The opening of a bank at Diyun town has been a long pending demand of its residents. In support of their demand, the people, among others, say that Diyun is the economic hub of the entire circle and the circle is not like other areas where law and order problems, inhospitable terrain and non-availability of basic infrastructure pose as impediments in providing banking facilities. Their demand for a bank at Diyun town is further boosted with the announcement of the Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee during his Budget Speech in the Lok Sabha on February 28 this year reiterating to provide banking facilities to habitations having a population of over 2,000. They argue that at least 4-5 villages under the circle are having a population of more than 2,000.

The demand for a bank at Diyun town is genuine. Presently, there are no banking facilities except at Bordumsa under Diyun-Bordumsa block. The bank at Bordumsa caters to a population of about 26,000 under the Bordumsa circle, while a population of over 30,000 under Diyun circle has been kept deprived. In the absence of banking facilities, the people have to go to neighboring Lohit district or Assam, which are far away, to access a bank. Businessmen and government employees including those who have retired, are the worst affected. The retired persons who are aged are forced to go to State Bank of India, Chowkham branch in Lohit district, which is more than 50 km, to draw their pension.

Arunachal Pradesh has the maximum number of un-banked blocks in the country. Recently, the State Level Bankers' Committee (SLBC) decided to provide banking facilities in 11 blocks out of the present 34 un-banked blocks in the state within this financial year.

The priority has been given to the un-banked blocks in the country under the Centre's financial inclusion programme. There are areas within the banked blocks where banking facilities are urgently required. Diyun is a fit case for having a bank. Most importantly, it meets all the norms for opening up a bank. However, the pleas of its residents were never heard, as there is a bank located at Bordumsa under the block, which is not easily accessible. The residents instead prefer the bank at Chowkham in the neighboring Lohit district or in Assam.

Opening of a bank at Diyun town could play a proactive role in economic empowerment of the people. Given the still high number of un-banked blocks in the state and the block-centric approach of the government it is highly unlikely that the pleas of the residents of Diyun circle will be ever fulfilled, at least not in the near future.

Across the country, there are areas with sizable population within the blocks where banking facilties are urgently required. The government has to come out from its block-centric approach and should also consider areas within the banked-blocks for coverage under the financial inclusion programme.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Urgent need to train cops on child rights law in Arunachal

The state of Arunachal Pradesh is increasingly becoming child unfriendly. The recent infamous Daporijo police station MMS case where two minors were detained, forced to have sex and filmed exposed the scant respect for the child rights law by the state’s law enforcement personnel.

The utter disregard for the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 is manifested by the following two recent cases.

In early May 2011, three minors were brought to a police station on the charge of alleged theft at Roing town in Lower Dibang Valley district. One of the minors was an orphan. The minors were detained in the lock-up of the police station. The Officer-in-Charge of the police station reportedly claimed that the minors were detained as their parents refused to take them back immediately and wanted them to spend few more days in detention.

Similarly, in the last week of May 2011, another three minors, aged 15-16 years, (name withheld) were picked up by police on the charge of theft at Roing. The minors were detained at the police station and a first information report No.43/11 U/S 379 IPC was registered against them. The victim were taken into custody and detained at the police station in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act. Later, the minors were released on bail.[1]

The Juvenile Justice Act provides that child offenders cannot be taken into police custody. They have to be immediately produced before Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) who, depending on the evidence, could send them to a juvenile home. Section 10 (1) of the Juvenile Justice Act provides that “As soon as a juvenile in conflict with law is apprehended by police, he shall be placed under the charge of the special juvenile police unit or the designated police officer who shall immediately report the matter to a member of the (Juvenile Justice) Board.”

From the two cases stated above, it suggests that the police are totally ignorant of the provisions of the JJA or willfully violate the law. The reported contention of the Officer-in-Charge of the police station that the minors were detained at the police station as their parents refused to take them back is worrying. While according to the Rules under the JJA, it is provided that the police or child welfare officer dealing with juvenile cases shall not be required to register an FIR or file a charge-sheet, except where the offence alleged to have been committed by the juvenile is of a serious nature such as rape, murder or when such offence is alleged to have been committed jointly with adults.

What is more worrying is the failure to the state government to constitute adequate JJBs and Child Welfare Committees, juvenile homes, among others as required under the JJA. As per information available at the website of the Social Welfare, Women and Child Development Department, JJBs and CWCs were constituted only in 8 districts and there is only one Juvenile Delinquents Home in East Siang District with the total capacity of 20 inmates.

Of late, there has been an increase in crime by juveniles in the state. The lone Juvenile Home with the capacity of just 20 inmates is far from adequate. There are 16 districts in the state.

In the absence of juvenile homes, the juveniles had to be detained at police stations or jails.

[1]. The Sentinel, Assam, June 1, 2011