How the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh can get the Better of their Longstanding Affliction


If the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh were to try and find their bearings as to where they stand presently more than  53 years hence when they were first made to settle down in a lawful manner in the erstwhile North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA) â eventually to find themselves to be residing in the state of Arunachal Pradesh owing to changes in nomenclature and reorganization rendered to the region where they had originally been made to settle down â they would undeniably agree to the fact that they are troubled and vexed about the fact that they are denied their fundamental rights despite being citizens of this nation. Bafflingly, the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh are faced with this harsh reality despite many a milestone verdict adjudged in their favor by the honorable Supreme Court of India as well as the other higher courts of the country, in addition to the Centreâs repeated validation of their status as lawful citizens. Perhaps, the natural question that arises at this juncture is: How can the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh circumvent their longstanding affliction vis-à-vis the baseless but cruel rejection they are faced with in the backyard of their own homeland? Before trying to find an answer to this all- important question, an objective scrutiny of this very affliction would lay the foundation stone towards finding a cogent solution â or at least help in getting some perspective. To begin with â what prevent(s) the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh from realizing their elusive dream of getting to enjoy the basic rights of being citizens of India?

Everyone would agree that the whole matter has presently assumed multi-dimensional character that has grown a lot more complicated over the years, and all the more compounded in a synergistic manner by various socio-economic problems, illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, etc. , all of which constitute the multiple factors that can be implicated in making the situation particularly difficult for the Chakmas; and in the process, holding them back before they got hold of their rights and whatâs due to them. It is also to mean that none of these factors can be singled out as the most serious one to demand overriding priority. Besides, all of these are interrelated and each one has a multiplier effect to create more and more problems. At the same time, it is not difficult to see at the very root of the whole matter multifarious political forces â and not specifically and in totality the government of Arunachal Pradesh â who have ruthlessly hijacked a dream of close to 1 lakh Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh.

To add insult to injury, these cruel forces especially AAPSU and a few other groups â from the vibes which can easily be perceived â are selfish and politically motivated, and these forces through their myopic view of things perceive that the sufferings of the Chakma people do somehow end up serving their vested interests. Although these malicious elements are horribly ill-advised, their exploits utterly hideous, perceive the Chakma issue in a way that is ridiculously dogmatic and their standpoint so closely a personification of irrational political posturing in addition to being characterized by defiance of the law of the land; yet, they have with much success rendered the life of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh agonizingly tragic. And, despite everything, they are only probably taken for saboteurs of a long due settlement of a lawful political process. Interestingly, the same parties have thought it wise to put forth a parallel substantiation of this very stance of theirs. Unfortunately, their seemingly considered attempt at justifying their view of things as well as their standpoint is clearly founded on a line of reasoning which is pitiably antiquated and far- removed from the circumstances as well as the sensibilities of the present day, thereby projecting a sense of judgment on their part which fails to logically connect the past with the present as well as take into account and consider the lapse of time, which in turn had effected the vicissitudes of time with their inherent as well as attendant dynamics to come into play, linking up the moment when they had for the first time branded the Chakmas and Hajongs o fArunachal Pradesh as ârefugeesâ with the present day.

Evidently, their stubborn attitude has been much to their liking serving them the wasteful purpose of effecting loss of valuable time, wastage of energy and scarce public resources on one hand and rendering the real issue almost being lost in all the hullabaloo on the other, with regard to and by way of an attempt at denying the established fact that the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh are only lawfully settled where they currently are and that they are not illegal settlers as people outside of Arunachal Pradesh are often made to believe, and on the pretext of which they have been inhumanely subjected to denial of their legitimate rights. By way of another point of view, these aforesaid politically motivated forces at work against the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh realizing their legitimate interests can be at best taken for pressure groups. Technically, pressure groups operate within the constitutional framework; make representations to various committees and also seek to influence the executive as well as the political parties by sending memoranda, personal deputations and organizing social gatherings.

The difference, in case of AAPSU and a few other politically affiliated bodies in Arunachal Pradesh vis-à-vis the Chakma issue â which AAPSU in particular have been milking over the years for the purpose of grabbing some lowly undeserved limelight over the years â would be that perhaps they only seem to operate within the constitutional framework when they employ pressure-group tactics to influence government actions so as render them favorable vis-à-vis their own vested interests. Interestingly, even one or the other political party in the state was recently seen showing interest in capitalizing on the Chakma issue in the same way AAPSU have done over the years.

By way of picking up the threads of the earlier attempt at closely examining the long standing affliction of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh and, at the same time, figuratively speaking, the entire predicament â often referred to as the Chakma citizenship issue â can be likened to a constellation, where each factor which stands to aggravate as well as create more problems that in turn stand to individually contribute to making the Chakma citizenship issue a bigger problem as if it were a chain reaction of problems thereby necessitating all of the original factors be tackled simultaneously even as focusing on any one to the exclusion of the other factors in all likelihood would prove counterproductive, is a star; contrary to what most stakeholders of the Chakma community are seen to equate it to â which is to a single independent star â when they are heard saying, as if they habitually think so and also take that for granted, that all of their problems would vanish as if by magic once the Chakma citizenship issue is resolved. And in doing so, they make the mistake of treating and also considering the whole matter as a single entity or a single all-resolving target â as if it were a panacea for all the prevailing troubles â thereby failing to meaningfully consider, âwhat it means to be a citizen in the real sense especially in the Chakma inhabited areas of Arunachal Pradesh or any other remote area in the regionâ .

In truth, there is really no definitive or standardized stage of being a citizen or a non- citizen. If you are looking for some sort of corroboration with respect to the preceding statement, simply ask someone who is a dweller of this place â what meaningful difference has âbeing able to wield a voter ID or ration cardâ made in their life; if their life is any different from those who do not have a voter ID or ration card to show for. Yet, the irony of the whole situation is that nobody in the region in question can claim total deprivation. As a matter of fact, the inference that can be drawn by way of finding preliminary answers to the preceding questions is: whoever has democratically demanded and claimed their rights being lawful citizens of the nation and to the extent they have fought for them, have bagged as much. In other words, if each of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh took stock of their individual progress of demanding and claiming their respective rights and then getting to enjoy those, they would find themselves at different stages in the process of being citizens. Another way of looking at it is: an individual would rather prefer having the rights, facilities, the basic foundation which would aid him to realize his true potential, etc. and not have a voter ID or a ration card to show for than having every document issued by the government and still be deprived of the most basic rights. Hence, it follows that realization of citizenship in the case of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh is in fact a process or an indefinite continuum, which is an end in itself, involving changes at one stage that in turn individually stand to set in motion a sequence of changes with continual feedback affecting earlier causes in the overall sequence and essentially that which cannot be attributed a definitive character or some kind of finality. It is in a way analogous to education â in the sense that one can never claim to have achieved or acquired the optimum level of education in oneâs lifetime. In other words, it is a successive development into the future that does not imply a break from the past and also, in essence, that which constitutes possessing the fundamental power to exercise for all practical purposes the rights of being a citizen, and that which does not suffice by merely effecting official documentation.

By way of sufficing the drawn-out scrutiny of the longstanding affliction of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh, it is time to ostentatiously propose as well as propound the long held-back solution to getting the better of this conundrum; and, it is: âCollective Action by means of Democratic Community Activismâ. Now, before embarking on an attempt at presenting an exposition with regard to the preceding assertion, a common ground needs to be agreed upon with regard to adopting a certain practicable approach in the process of getting to the heart of the matter. The common ground would be: the approach, which the Chakma community chooses to adopt in their march towards realizing their goal, must be formulated only in accordance with the Democratic Framework that the Republic of India provides for. If it is asked why it is important to respect this very democratic framework; the easy answer is: it provides at least the basic protection, and that it also penalizes if it is breached. The living proof as well as corroboration of the preceding fact being that the Chakma community thrives still â if it were not for the democratic framework that India as a nation provides for, the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh would not have at one point survived the hostility as well as the malice of many a powerful as well as politically- backed element in the state. Hence and naturally so, it is in the interest of the whole community to keep fighting in a manner which is persistently only democratic; even if it is evidently so, that this systemic framework is also the reason why things do not realize implementation in the right sense of the word when the Centre wants the State of Arunachal Pradesh in accordance with procedures and processes of a government, which is supposedly according to needs of the times both unitary as well as federal in character, to facilitate registration as well as enrollment of all the Chakma voters in the electorate and also disburse whatâs due to them in terms of facilities, rights, etc.

Now, by way of getting back to the focal point: What would mean or constitute âCollective Action by means of Democratic Community Activismâ? In essence, this conceptual idea would constitute the basic foundation or the vehicle for progress that the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh is in dire need of, so as to give their overall cause of realizing their objectives as a community in a meaningful way, a much needed boost; one that would empower the whole community in the present time, even as it would continue to do so in the future. The fundamental components of this foundation or the vehicle for progress are as follows: I.

Institutionalized Leadership Founded on Public Participation which is Departmentalized as well as Hierarchical: Since systems are sustained by institutions and the systems in turn sustain the processes which must go on no matter what, the leadership must be institutionalized. As well, there are too many pressing issues which the Chakma community is faced with; hence, the leadership has got to have a departmental set-up â specific departments albeit in a synergy contending with more or less specific issues; it has got to be hierarchical as every functional as well as successful leadership in this world is perhaps founded on a well worked out hierarchy.

And, the processes involved in public participation would provide for the requisite checks and balances. Most importantly, the one at the helm, more than being 40 or 35 years of age, must be easily attributed with the qualities of a true leader, especially integrity, broadmindedness, boldness, being proactive, visionary and creative, etc. II. An Enlightened and Awakened Public: The role of the general public is almost equally important as that of the leadership in a movement. They have to be able to see reason and support critical decisions of the leadership at crucial moments. Most importantly, they have to make the all-important decision of choosing the most suitable leader, who is worthy of being followed, to take the movement forward.

If ever the Chakma community are able to afford such a foundation, they would then be empowered to make use of every democratic instrument provisioned in the Indian Constitution to reclaim their rights and very effectively so; every step taken by the Chakma community would be distinguished by a collaborative approach in terms of initiating as well as fostering purposeful peace protests, coordinated as well as orchestrated mass mobilization, effective management of public relations and media presence, solid connections with mainstream India intellectually, economically as well as culturally, the ability to speak up against injustice and discrimination by means of a voice which would always be heard and also responded to, constructive promotion as well as propagation of culture and tradition besides being able to effectively deal with contingencies â all of these would then be living realities.

Above all, the Chakma community would then be able to very effectively take the legal recourse whenever the need arose, especially by means of the important democratic instrument of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which appears to be very pertinent to the cause of their overall fight for justice. Unfortunately, the only as well as the greatest stumbling block to accomplishing all of these drawn-up objectives on the back of the so proposed foundation, however, is: a great portion of the preceding proposition would at best constitute a utopian concept â especially asking for all of the aforesaid leadership qualities in one fell swoop at the heart of the Chakma community would be a tall order and if someone were hoping that the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh would be so progressive, they had most probably not done their homework. In such conditions, it would naturally seem like the Chakma community would have to wait for their deliverance till incredibly talented and capable leaders of their own, well-supported by the general population who would have also received quality education, came along to guide home their fellow men.

But, the irony is: in order for this to come to pass, the Chakma community will have to first break away from the current situation which is primarily sufficed by denial of rights â the sole reason why the Chakma community have thus far been distanced from the requisite wherewithal for both economic and intellectual growth and progress. All in all, it is a vicious circle in which the Chakma community is trapped. And further still, all this perhaps would mean that this attempt at trying to put across the much-anticipated resolution to the much-repeated question in the first place would apparently seem to be nothing but a futile exercise. Nevertheless and in spite of everything, it is perhaps not entirely a lost cause â âCollective Action by means of Democratic Community Activismâ built on the aforesaid foundation would still be doable and things would take a turn for the better if only both the Chakma leadership as well as the general public developed the habit as well as a culture of reading books; if not in entirety, at least those of the Chakma community who have had the fortune of learning to read.

The idea of reading books being able to accomplish such aspirations of colossal magnitude would sound preposterous and, perhaps, it would deceive many who would without difficulty dismiss it â saying, it were an idealistic irrelevance â until one knew the power of reading books. Although the preceding statement should have come from someone who is at least an avid reader, yet a deep conviction that the power of reading books could do so much, born of only shallow understanding obtained through a frail practice of reading books, begs to be spoken thus. One can never question the power of reading books though, for the simple reason that it leads towards the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel; it inspires, enlightens, awakens and also heals minds; it hones an individualâs good qualities while rooting out his bad qualities; it is the window or interface through which the readers avail themselves of the opportunity to interact with the greatest minds of this world whose aura surely rubs off on the readers and in the process they are egged on to think and act like great minds themselves in a manner which reflects balance of thought, perspective, judgment and action.

Most of all, it has the potential to reveal in its inconceivable way the elusive solution, in case it is yet to be discovered, to conquer or even transcend the greatest obstacle faced by the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh. In any case, though, one of the basic approaches which the Chakma community needs to adopt is one of democratically demanding and claiming each of their rights at every given opportunity, which would in essence constitute a sustained pressure of legitimate demands; and in the process, gradually, they need to democratically get the local authorities, legislators, AAPSU, etc. and all of them who happen to be standing between them and their rights, used to the habit of handing them their rights, facilities, etc. In other words, the Chakma community needs to persistently work democratically and make all of them, who think they can hinder the Chakma people from getting hold of their rights and what is due to them, come to terms with the fact that it is only natural that the Chakma community gets whatâs rightfully theirs. How the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh Can Get the Better of their Longstanding Affliction

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