Members of the civil society of India


By Rajendu B Chakma

Pardon me and allow me to enquire, what do I have to do with the 69th Republic Day of India? Are the great principles of freedom and justice embodied in the Preamble to the Constitution being extended to me? Am I called upon to bring my humble offering to the national altar and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from this constitutional day?

Can an affirmative answer be truthfully returned to these questions? If an affirmative be returned, my burden will become easy. For who is so cold that a nation's sympathy could not warm him?

But the fact is, there isn't an affirmative answer to return. There are many men lying cold under this unsympathetic nation. The fifty thousand Chakma men are lying cold.

A descendent of such a Chakma man, with a sad sense of disparity between us, I do not hesitate to say that I am not included within the pale of this glorious celebration. The pompous jubilation and magestic parade on the Rajpath only reveals the immeasurable distance between the Citizen of India and the Chakmas. The way I can see it the blessings of this constitutional day is not enjoyed in common, for the rich inheritance of freedom, equality, justice and prosperity bequeathed by the Founding Fathers is shared by you, not by me. The pure sunlight of the Constitution had brought life and healing to you but only misery and death to me. This 26th of January, therefore, is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.

Above the patriotic peal of the bagpipes, do you hear the mournful wail of the Chakma community? If you don't hear them, if you are willing to forget them and pass lightly over their wrongs, I will not hesitate to declare, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 26th of January.

Whether we turn to the Preamble bestowed upon the people of India in the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. India is false to the past and false to the present. Standing with God and the Chakma man, whose dignity as a human is outraged, whose liberty is fettered, whose Constitutional rights is disregarded and trampled upon, I dare to question every standing legislators on this ocassion including the nation and the Constitution they swore to defend and uphold.

 Can I hope to keep alive in my heart that there will be some taller than the tall legislators whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a migrant-despiser, who shall see the weight and reasons behind my words?

In the matter of the wrongs over the last half-a-century over the Chakma man in Arunachal Pradesh, I am continually left perplexed whether to argue more and denounce less or persuade more and rebuke less for where all is plain there is nothing to be argued.

Tell me what point in the Citizenship Act would you have me argue? Tell me on what aspect of the Chakma community's history do you need more to know? Must I undertake to prove that the Chakma man is a man of the Undivided British India? Must I undertake to prove that the Chakma man antedates the birth of Arunachal Pradesh? Must I prove that the Chakma man is also a man? The point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it.

In Arunachal Pradesh, for the present it is enough to affirm the equal political status of the Chakma man. Is it not astonishing that, while we are plowing, planting and reaping, erecting houses and monasteries in Arunachal; that while we are reading and writing in Arunachal; that we are engaged in all the enterprises common to other tribal men -- fishing, grazing cattle on the hillside, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives, and children, and above all, professing religion and worshipping God and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave -- we are called upon to prove that we are Citizens?

Would you have me argue that Chakma man is entitled to his constitutional rights? That he is in his very rightful place? Must I argue the wrongfulness of human rights violation?

What to the Chakma man is the Twenty-sixth of January? Perhaps, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice to which he is the constant victim. To him this nation-wide celebration is a sham and the greatness of the state, a swelling vanity. There is no other state in our entire Republic guilty of practices more shocking than are the legislators of Arunachal Pradesh at this very hour.

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