Misinformation, half-truths and propaganda – Bisbo Video on Chakmas of AP

Recently a video was circulated widely on social media from the BISBO YouTube channel (link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukcr7lFInCo) where they did a case study on the Chakma-Hajong people vis-a-vis CAA and their broad history especially on the migration and resettlement of 2748 families in present-day Arunachal Pradesh.

CRDO carried out an in-depth analysis of the video and found it wanting on many counts. What was alarming was that the common mainland Indian knew so little about the Chakma and Hajong issue of Arunachal Pradesh and their arguements are often based on premises built on the propaganda of the hostile State Government, AAPSU and other groups with vested interests.

It appears that BISBO had sourced most of the content from the “White paper on Chakma and Hajong Refugee issue by the Govt of Arunachal Pradesh”. Unfortunately, this white paper was published by the state Government as a reaction to the Supreme Court verdict of NHRC vs State of AP dated 09 Jan 1996 which had indicted the state government of its complicity and failure to protect the rights and liberty of the Chakmas and Hajongs living in AP. When the state government itself is a party and is hand in gloves with AAPSU in perpetrating violence and oppression on the hapless Chakmas one can imagine the immanent bias reflected in the White Paper. Readers are requested to please read the judgment for details.

It is a fact that the Chakmas and Hajongs did not go to NEFA on their own. They were taken there by the government of India traversing a distance of 1200 kilometers from CHT. Hence, they were accepted and rehabilitated by the Government of India in the then North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which later became Arunachal Pradesh under a centrally sponsored ‘definite plan of rehabilitation’, following a series of discussions between the representatives of the Central government, state administration and local tribal leaders.

The statement that the Chakmas had converted to Buddhism from Islam is incorrect. At no point in history were the Chakmas muslims. It was a practice to adopt the titles of ruling dynasties as a gesture of accepting the token suzerainty of the Mughal Emperor after the Mughal-Chakma wars (Subir Bhaumik – Insurgent Crossfire; Lancer Publishers, New Delhi). Before embracing Theravada Buddhism during the time of Kalindi Rani, the Chakmas practiced another form of Buddhism called Lori (another form of Mahayana Buddhism). The image of the great Chakma Queen Kalindi Rani as a Muslim lady as depicted in the video is factually incorrect bordering on being offensive to many.

Below are presented some more (by no means exhaustive) inaccuracies in the aforementioned video:

* NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh, over objections from their indigenous people were asked to take in 2598 families.

# The Chakmas and Hajongs were permanently settled in five different settlement areas in 3 divisions of NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh) by the Government of India under a Centrally sponsored “definite plan of rehabilitation” in 1964-69 with the consent of the local tribal chiefs, then NEFA administration and the Governor of Assam. NEFA was then administratively managed under the Ministry of External Affairs through the Governor of Assam. Citizenship was already given at the time of rehabilitation. It was only later that these rights were de-recognized one after another as part of denial and deprivation policy of the state.

* Population swelled from 50 odd families in 1966 to 788 families, soon they demanded citizenship of India. The 2600 Chakma families had taken refuge in Arunachal, had grown in to 65000 units by 1991.

# As per available data with the Govt. of India and Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh 2,598 families comprising 14,138 persons were settled in NEFA (now Arunachal Pradesh). As per the 2011 census, the total Chakma and Hajong population combined is 49,784 which is merely 3.6% of the total state population. The growth rate of the Chakma-Hajong population is significantly LOWER than the overall state population. The compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) for the Chakma-Hajong population stands at 2.60% versus 2.87% for the overall state population. For the 2001-11 decade, the decadal growth rate for Chakma-Hajong population stands at 17.5% versus 26% for the overall state population. As per the statement made by Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Pema Khandu on the floor of the State Legislative Assembly on 8th January 2020, the total Chakma-Hajong population as per survey done by DCs in 2015-16 stands at 65,875. (The Arunachal Times, dated 08 Jan 2020)

The population of 50 odd families (57 to be precise) is of one village called Joypur only and you seem to have unfortunately mixed up that village population with the total Chakma population.

* Government of Arunachal asked to 50 families to return to allotted areas and vacate additional areas with reference to Arunachal Pradesh vs Khudiram Chakma, 1993, SCR(3) 401 court case. They are indulging in illegal and criminal activities and constantly troubling the locals.

# It is a case of gross misrepresentation and generalization. In fact, a lot has been written about the issue of land encroachment by Khudiram Chakma who supposedly ‘strayed’ outside the settlement area. It has received wide publicity in the media and the case has been cited by many. But it is sad that no in-depth study has ever been done to understand the case as an example of good relationship and cultural assimilation that was developing between the fellow Buddhist tribes like the Chakma and Singpho tribes.

Khudiram Chakma never went to the court on the citizenship question. He went to the court for justice – to quash an ‘arbitrary’ order issued by the Circle Officer to vacate the land donated to him and 56 other families by one local Singpho Raja (Chief) Shri Ningrunong Singpho. The deed of donation that became the subject matter in Apex Courts was about one square mile of personal land donated by the Singpho Raja to Shri Khudiram Chakma. It did not happen by force nor was the decision taken overnight. It was preceded by years of mutual friendship, affection and respect for each other and is an expression of that genuine love and friendship. It was a win-win situation for both the donor Raja and Shri Khudiram Chakma because it acted as a buffer against other encroachers eying for uncultivated vacant land lying in the area. Clearing the forest and converting it into cultivable land meant providing protection against wild elephants making their presence felt and grazing and destroying paddy crops in the human habitat. How someone sitting as a Judge in Delhi would be persuaded to appreciate such rural local nuances. The fact that he lost the case eventually in the Supreme Court is another matter, but no one thought that the case will be used to generalise the verdict of the case and pitted against all the Chakma and Hajong people of Arunachal Pradesh. Every Chakma was branded as a foreigner although the facts and circumstances of the 56 families are not the same and are different from those of the other families rehabilitated in Arunachal Pradesh. But for the impugned notice issued by the Circle Officer of Diyun which created this as an issue, Khudiram Chakma would not have gone to the court. That is what triggered the litigation process in courts and the vulnerable Chakma tribals failed to win the case against the mighty and powerful state government.

* Relation between locals and refugees deteriorated so much in 1994, AAPSU issued quit Arunachal Pradesh.

# The relation between the Chakmas and other local tribes deteriorated only for a brief time at the behest of AAPSU who, in their zeal to copy the Assam agitation of AASU of the late 70s on their way to power, wanted their version of the foreigners (the other) and found soft targets in the Chakmas and Hajongs who were then just settling down after their rehabilitation. Backed by the state machinery AAPSU have been subjecting the poor Chakma and Hajong people to systematic denial, deprivation and derecognition of the Chakma and Hajong people of their fundamental rights. Hence the apex court had indicted both AAPSU and the state government in the 1996 judgement.

There are mainly 2 issues in Arunachal Pradesh – the China issue and the Chakma-Hajong issue. It’s in the interest of AAPSU to keep this issue alive. Riding on the wave of confusion, fear and xenophobia created in the minds of innocent Arunachalee public, many AAPSU leaders have become successful political leaders in the state.

AAPSU were dismissed once as a body comprising (of) ‘pampered’ students (Gupta 1982) and another time as a ‘private entity’ (Limpert 1998). However, being master propagandists, backed by the corridors of power in Arunachal Pradesh, in the mainstream, it is only the AAPSU version of what the Chakma-Hajong issue is that is available and accessible to the people.

While the attempt to empathize with our cause is appreciable, but it is a cause for concerned that it ended up doing quite the opposite as such half-truths and inaccuracies have only distorted the reality of our settlement and existence.

It may be mentioned here that 90% of Chakmas and Hajongs are citizens of India by birth and the original migrants were also accorded de facto citizenship rights at the time of their rehabilitation. It is only later after 1980 that the rights of Chakmas and Hajongs were de-recognized one after another in the name of ‘citizenship’.

Readers may please get in touch with us on facebook or email us at teamcrdo@gmail.com for more details/clarifications, if any.