It has been more than 20 years since the Supreme Court of India’s judgment on January 9, 1996 viz. in the case of National Human Rights Commission Vs State of Arunachal Pradesh and Anr (Civil Writ Petition 720 of 1995): To process the citizenship applications of those who migrated between 1964 and 1969, and those Chakmas and Hajongs who were born in India are citizens by birth.
It goes without saying that the work of the CCRCHAP activists in tandem with the collective cooperation of the general populace of the Chakma community deserves all the credit for the aforementioned critical judgment of the Honorable Supreme Court of India to have come to pass. It arguably is the most vital stepping stone toward the quest of a life the Chakma Society/Community of Arunachal Pradesh have always dreamt of. Furthermore, the efforts of the said activists as well as those of the emerging activists are still ongoing and many more progressive developments would hopefully be forthcoming as a result of their continued endeavor.
Of course, all of that does sound music to the ears; however, the reality of the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh in the present day does speak volumes for itself – an objective view of the state of affairs tell a different tale and suggests that things have hardly changed for the better.
Visibly, there are great problems facing the Chakma community just like the ones which had been there all along the way. And, one cannot expect things to take a positive turn overnight. And then, as always, quailing would not help but find the way home because there is no other option – do or die.
One of the most intimidating problems facing the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh, as is generally viewed, is the might of the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh as well as that of the AAPSU (All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union) at whose whimsical mercy their future lie. But then, the natural question that should follow and which should be asked is: What makes the Chakma community so weak, helpless and compromised?
Well, it’s hard to believe in the might of a bully – if at all there is one – as much as it is made out to be, in a country like India. That’s because the system, in which the state of Arunachal Pradesh operates, is one of the largest as well as the newest democracies in the world. Having said that, India as a democratic country does have provisions of protection, dignity, equality and so forth for all sections of the populace. Besides, everyone is living in a globalized world where men can almost no longer live as strangers, isolated and not be impacted by what’s transpiring someplace else.
Perhaps, the power that the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh as well the AAPSU exercise over the Chakma community might not be totally improbable, because here it is the state of Arunachal Pradesh that is being talked about – the eastern most state of India where connectivity, presence and practice of free and ethical media coverage happens to be a far cry from what it is in mainstream India; where there exists a vast disconnect within and across the state and where ignorance acts as a huge detriment; in short, anything is possible.
Nonetheless, it should rather be emphasized that the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh should never lose hope but keep the faith in the great nation of India; rather, they should ask themselves: Whether they were able to exploit the said provisions of the Constitution of India for their deliverance to at least a considerable extent. Here, the grounds for assuming that they have hardly fought and claimed, in a democratic manner, their fundamental rights to which all of them are entitled to, especially at the grassroots level, are rather cogent. Lack of democratic and lawful resistance on the part of Chakma community amid harassment and discrimination, which means giving them a freer hand at exercising their unfair ways, has made them look all the more invincible. If, however, it is argued that (despite the Honorable Supreme Court of India verdict) unless all of the eligible voters of the Chakma community are enrolled in the electorate – which is largely dependent on the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh and whoever are concerned implementing it – they are not justified in claiming their due entitlement; meaning they don’t have the ground to claim their rights. Well then, a simple question – what difference have they seen, those who are now actually enrolled in the electorate rather those who, in simple words, have something to show for being citizens of India?
Therefore, there is no the point in waiting till all of the eligible Chakma voters are enrolled in the electorate? Besides, the delay on the part of the authorities is not their fault; why should they suffer?
The actual question is: What difference were they, who are now able to wield a voter ID, able to bring to their lives. In truth, it does not matter whether all of the eligible Chakma voters are enrolled in the electorate or not, the jury is out and the verdict has been there for more than 15 years, and that no difference comes about on its own unless one acts to bring that difference. It is also to mean here that what CCRCHAP does is vital, but if their work is not complemented by purposeful democratic fight for the rights of the Chakma community at the grassroots level, even the exceptional success of CCRCHAP will only realize or end up succeeding in bringing about official documentation of the status of the Chakma society/community of Arunachal Pradesh as rightful citizens of India which they already all are; refer to the ultimate judgment. Therefore, the Chakma community have got to understand that documentation is something but not the real thing. Which is why, as a matter of fact, the kind of facilities that the Chakma society/community have come to enjoy till this point constitute only those facilities provided by the Government which are delivered at the doorstep with literally no proper effort on the part of the recipients.
And then, if the plight of the Chakma community is objectively analyzed, it would be seen that the State Government of Arunachal Pradesh has been able to pander in willful negligence and complicity because it is also able to hide behind red tape, ignorance of the masses, disunity, in fightings and their lack of purposeful direction. Why it is so plausible? Because the Chakma society/community cannot claim total depravity – it cannot be claimed that no child has been issued a birth certificate; there are selective dissemination of a number of central government schemes, etc. It means that the authorities are unable to treat the Chakma community as bad as they wanted to.
It is quite evident that the way forward is to purposefully counter their core problems and that their solution lies in being able to democratically fight for their rights at the grassroots level as well as being able to garner the support of intelligent and discerning India, despite facing seemingly endless constraints and shortcomings.
Perhaps, this is why one must believe in building a foundation or social infrastructure, through which the Chakma community, with the full knowledge of or completely being aware of the conditioning of their people, could reach out to the society at large and be their own guiding light.