The Chakma villages in Chowkham in Namsai district (Previously known as Lohit) are surrounded by two rivers, the Kamlang to the north and the Bareng to the south. The bridge built on bareng from wood and bamboo that connects people to Chowkham. Four wheelers can’t cross via the bamboo-wooden bridge making it difficult to carry goods but it can easily support a bike. The other way for the four wheelers to reach Chowkham Market from Chakma basti is around, from north to the south which is ninety times far and time consuming. A permanent bridge over the Bareng will make lives a lot easier for the Chakmas.
The population of Chakmas in Lohit is around 5000 with approximately 800 families. Most of the houses are “Alowk” or raised over the ground with the support of pillars as there are abundance of wood, logs and bamboos in the area.
The villages are more like planned with their houses on the either side of the road with regular power supply in almost every household.
There is a popular perception about the Chakmas of Lohit that they are the great exhibitors of true Changma hospitality (Lobiyodi) which I found is very true.
Education, which vital for development and progress of any society, remained grim in Chakma inhabited areas. There are satisfactory numbers of schools up to elementary level but secondary education and higher education is a bigger challenge here. If you are thinking about quality education, forget it, in Government schools especially in Arunachal Pradesh. There is a middle school in Chakma Basti No. 1 which has same problems as most of the schools in the state, to name a few: shortage of teaching staff, lack in basic infrastructure, no library etc. The schools in here are comparatively better than those of Diyun circle especially in terms of Teacher Students ratio and overall discipline and decorum.
For higher education, the students go to Chowkham higher secondary school or some choose to go to Assam or other part of India. There are approximately 80 students studying Chowkham higher secondary school and there seems to be visible feeling of insecurity and low self-esteem amongst the Chakma students who are hugely outnumbered by Khampti students. The incidents like that of July 2013 where a Chakma guy was beaten up brutally and a samanera was humiliated by some Khampti students always play in their minds. Some students go to Tezu College to pursue their higher studies.
The Chakmas of Lohit are considered to be more economically sound than that of Changlang District which is evident by the number of tractors, mini trucks, pick-ups, cars, bikes etc. owned by them. People are also very hard working and prefer to grow cash crops like ginger, mustard seed, papad seed etc. People with modern technical know-how are often heard of engaging in extensive farming by which they grow cash crops in a vast area which is believed to be the reason behind their sound economic condition.
Kamlang and Bareng are full of resources and with the commissioning of various projects like PMSGY, bridge over Brahmaputra tributary has generated employment for labors and tractor and truck owners. The sources of income over here are plenty and feel happy about it.
Lack of Health Care facilities
The health facilities available to the Chakmas are grossly inadequate. There is only no community health centre (CHC) at Chakma villages despite substantial population. There are three Chakma MBBS from Lohit and I hope they would think over the situation and do something about it.
Birth Certificate Denial
Birth Certificate to newborns and delayed registration is reportedly denied to the Chakmas of Lohit. I wonder if any leader took the initiative to check with the local administration. They are also not aware of online Jan Suvidha services.
My take on the issue is “forget the old man”. We must take up the issue.
Some Dangerous Trend
Khani: Some youth and old are reportedly spoiling their lives over smoking khani which was at highest level few years back but it is still a major concern for our community. The consequences of this addiction is horrible, it sucks the blood of not only the addicted but the whole family. The stories of Khani devastated families should ring a bell in everyone’s head. Though, this addiction is not as dangerous as drug addiction that is taking the Diyun circle in its claws slowly.
Khani is very common with the people from other tribes of the area and the administration is total failure in their attempt to curb the menace of Khani so far. The village leaders and youth need to work hand in hand to root out this social evil.
Religious segments: There are visible differences amongst the two religious segments that I don’t want to name and they would back bite about each other. Though, the situation in Lohit is far better than that of Diyun Circle and Bordumsa circle till now because the public usually mingle on occasions but the monks are reportedly adamant in this regard. Now, who will teach the teachers?
I see this as a leadership problem, situation like this needs strong leadership. I hope our leaders don’t get offended by what I think about them.
Drop Out Rates
As there are lots of opportunities for manual labors to earn money, some students are reportedly dropping out of school very early. This dangerous trend need to be checked immediately because without proper education these kids will ultimately end up being labors for life.
Upon speaking with a teacher of the Govt. middle school, she informed that numbers of students have been deregistered from the school rolls for not attending schools for months and they have been doing some odd manual labor for the sake of money.
I don’t blame those kids for their act of stupidity but the parents are responsible for ruining their lives. The leadership of Chakma villages in Lohit need to wake up and make good village governance a dream come true.
Fear Factor: Chakmas being minority in Chowkham have always been subjected to discrimination and prejudice in all the aspects of life are living in constant fear and low self esteem. There is a long history of subjugation over Chakmas in the area. There are reportedly hundreds of crime against Chakmas that went out of records, many Chakma people disappeared without a trace.
Our voices always fall into the deaf ears as we don’t have political mileage and often treated as second class citizens. There are approximately 300 voters from this area which hardly counted by the politicians of the area.
Flood: The memories of the devastating flood in 2004-2005 is still fresh in the minds of Chakmas of Chowkham and the Bareng and Kamlang is always inundating large chunk of cultivable land shrinking the settlement area of Chakmas