Team CRDO made the following submissions during the Peace Committee meeting with the civil administration, community leaders, GBs, CBOs, Student Bodies and other stakeholders organized by the Deputy Commissioner of Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh at Miao with regards to the recent incident at Kathan.
CRDO, represented by its General Secretary at the meeting called upon all stakeholders not to misrepresent the boundary dispute as a communal issue and to maintain peace and respect the status quo until a mutually agreeable solution is arrived at. CRDO also proposed a way forward with mutual respect and taking into confidence all the relevant stakeholders. This is also outlined in its memorandum below:
Dated Miao the 25th June 2021
Shri Devansh Yadav, IAS
Convener, Peace Committee cum Deputy Commissioner
District Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh
Sub: Mutual respect, trust and understanding between neighbouring communities is key to maintain peace and communal harmony.
We, on behalf of CRDO as the apex Community Based Organization of Chakmas of AP applaud the peace talk initiative taken by the administration under your leadership and thank you for allowing us to participate in these discussions, and would like to place the following points for your kind attention and consideration please:
We strongly condemn the events leading up to the Kathan incident of June 16th and those responsible must be brought to justice in accordance with law. At the same time, freedom of faith and worship and religious sentiment of people must be respected, and the missing Buddha statue should be investigated and returned to the place where it belongs.
We are also concerned at the undue politicisation of the incident and unnecessary turmoil created in social media channels. We all must take a step back, pause and reflect at the facts and circumstances of the case objectively. The issue has been politicized and blown out of proportion and must be dealt with right dose of sensitivity.
Problems are a part of human life and they do can occur at times even between brothers in any society, but it is wrong to take this one incident and blame all Chakmas and brand them as ‘illegal settlers’, ‘refugees’, ‘criminals’ and what not. Such one-sided binary worldview and reductionist approach will not do any good to strengthen the social fabric and cordial relationship between the neighbouring communities living together for 3-4 generations now.
It is time now for all right-thinking individuals, civil society organizations and community leaders to move forward from ‘blame game’ to a ‘solution-searching’ mode with honesty and utmost sincerity. The Chakma Hajong issue has been pending for too long and if not resolved soon it will lead to cancerous consequences. No wonder, all Chakma issues, big or small, become controversial.
Historically, borders and partitions were created to solve problems, but in the present case, it appears that the creation of the traditional boundary has led to confusion because Chakma and Mishmi neighbours sharing the same geographical area must know as to which part of the terrain belongs to whom and both sides must have a ‘say’ in drawing that boundary line.
While physical borders are visible and can be changed easily, what’s more alarming is the invisible borders created in our minds. Why is it that we consider somebody a ‘nobody’ and dub someone as “nothing”, and bring in “citizens” vs “refugees”, “local” vs “outsider” binary frames of references when it has nothing to do with the incident? We must break these mental barriers.
No problem can be solved permanently where one party tried to bully and/or silence the other in the name of religion, caste, colour, ethnicity, or nationality. The anti-apartheid movement in South Africa or of the Blacks in general is a shining example. When we embrace the philosophy of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and treat the entire world as one family, we must also remember that hatred, calling names, bullying the weak in the name of citizenship or place of origin has no place in such an all-encompassing framework.
Reminding the Chakmas every time of their past, either in Pakistan or linkage to Bangladesh as victims of human rights violations is not relevant. It is a thing of the past and unlike the Tibetans, who are settled temporarily as ‘honoured guests’, the case of the Chakmas and Hajongs is different as they had been brought to NEFA by the Govt of India with the intention of permanent settlement and were duly rehabilitated under various settlement schemes. This is a fact of history and must be accepted by all.
The Chakmas are indeed grateful and indebted to the fellow Buddhist Singpho leaders for accommodating the Chakmas when they came as ‘refugees’ way back in 1960s. However, it is also true that Chakmas were settled mostly in vacant lands and had to face attacks from wild beasts and animals, faced the fury of devastating floods year after year. We have come a long way in the process of cultural and national integration and this process must be kept ongoing.
Despite 5 decades after rehabilitation, the condition of the Chakma population continues to remain grim – economically backward and politically marginalized. Except for a few families, the majority Chakmas continue to struggle to meet both their ends.
What is needed is a focus on economic growth and development of the Deban area which has remained mostly remote, socially, educationally and economically backward and inaccessible. It has become a fertile ground for underground/insurgent groups like the NSCN to harass, force extortion of money from poor Chakma villagers and recruit vulnerable youths with threats or coercion. With limited rights and no ST, PRC, ration card and employment opportunities or financial means, Chakma youths become easy target. Development preceded by construction of roads, electricity, drinking water, establishment of schools, medical centres and restoration of basic rights is the need of the hour.
On behalf of CRDO, we would like to place the following points for your kind consideration and necessary action please.
- Respect existing territorial rights and ownership of land in the disputed /Kathan area and maintain status quo (status prior to traditional boundary line demarcation of 6th April 2021). Jhum cultivation and harvesting of crops should be allowed to the farmers but no encroachment and fresh incursions should be allowed from either side.
- Maintain peace and social harmony in the area through continued imposition of Sec 144 and and stop/prohibit unauthorised visit of the disputed area by various groups like AAPSU. There have been reports of threat, intimidation and fear created in the mind of the local Chakma population. Protection of life, liberty and livelihood should be of utmost priority.
- Review the traditional boundary line of 6th April and include representation from Chakma villagers/CBOs to gain consensus and acceptability of the stakeholders, and modify the boundary line if required, in the largest interest of peace and harmony in consultation with local inputs from the ground and historical data available on political boundary /administrative maps of Miao circle. Alignment with the pending demarcation of Changlang and Lohit district political boundary is imperative.
- Focus on economic development of the area: Provide access to poverty alleviation schemes like MGNREGA / PMJAY /PMGKAY / DDUBY / BADP/ etc. and access to basic Birth Certificates, RC/PRC/ST for job opportunities, restoration of ration cards, employment, entrepreneurship, etc. Construction of roads, establishment of schools and medical centres in the area will help bring the people on track to the path of progress.
- Devise ways and means to stop insurgency activities in the area and provide protection to the villagers from undue pressure, harassment, forced recruitment of vulnerable youths and extortion of money from poor innocent Chakma villagers.
- There is a need for a common platform among the civil society organizations/ CBOs of different tribes to discuss current issues as well as potential issues and maintain cordial relationship between neighbouring communities. This will go a long way in addressing issues proactively. The local office can take the initiative and moderate these discussions initially.
We believe that the power of peace is stronger than the power of violence and war. The past is gone and cannot be undone but we have the present moment with us now to act and march towards a new beginning – and establish an authentic relationship based on ‘love thy neighbour’ where there is genuine affection, trust and mutual respect for each other as neighbours. Let’s take the first step in that direction and aspire for a world filled with love, understanding and compassion.
Looking forward to a new journey towards peaceful co-existence,
All Concerned Community Leaders / GBs /Intellectuals
President / Secretary of NGOs/ CBOs
CRDO is a Community Based Organization (CBO) of the vulnerable and marginalized Chakma Buddhist tribals of Arunachal Pradesh working for full-fledged restoration of their rights and entitlements. Our vision is to create a world free from discrimination where everyone has equal access to rights and opportunities. Our motto: Live and Let Live!