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