Life of Hardship and Hope: Story of Pradip Kumar Chakma
Born in the year 1969 at village Dumpani, one of the initially allotted 6 blocks for rehabilitation to Chakma migrants from the then East Pakistan by the Govt. of India between 1964-1969, Mr Padip Kumar Chakma’s life story is one of the many similar Chakma folks in present Arunachal Pradesh.
Initially possessing a cultivation land of 7 acres by his four-member family and his other brothers, they supported themselves by cultivating paddy crops on that land besides vegetables like mustard leaves, brinjal, cabbages, cauliflower, peppers, turnip, tomatoes etc and fruits like cucumber, watermelon and garden of mango, jackfruit, raspberries, papaya, guava trees. But the honour of feeding his family was soon devastated by the Noa-Dihing river flood in the year 1992. He lost his home as the fury of the Noa-Dihing washed away his home and he had to move to a plot of land given in generosity by a relative. He continued cultivating what was little left of his original land for rice, somehow managing to feed his family.
Again in the year 2000, his little cultivated land was reduced to a bed of sand by the Noa-Dihing river leaving him uprooted yet again driving him to abject poverty and hunger. The government authorities in Diyun responded somewhat favourably to his request by settling him and 13 other flood affected families at Diyun Tiniali, adjacent to Jyotsnapur village. Pradip’s family and the 13 other families were forced to fend for themselves with no ration provided by the administration. The allotted land – an uncleared forest area – was not suitable for paddy cultivation and Pradip like the others had no other means to sustain his family. They survived on the meagre assistance that their relatives could afford. For many nights Pradip, his wife and their children had to go to bed hungry, staring into the darkness, wondering what next was in store for him and his family!
Soon Pradip moved to Ongseng Nongthow, managing to fetch a plot of land for rice cultivation under tenant-farming system from a Khampti landlord. He decided to send his children to a nearby Govt. Primary School, knowing the importance of education in the hope of a better future for them. Burnt by the heat of the sun his skin looked tainted like burnt wheat, his apparent nose tunneling outward, eyes trying to hide behind the sockets, strong jaw and a strong back, Pradip resolved not to go hungry again. He ploughed his land early morning before the sun rose with a rented pair of oxen in the month of June praying the rain god for timely rain. He was assisted by his hardworking wife and the children chipped in too. Under the smiling Sun and the occasional merrily blowing breeze, together they sowed their paddy crops when there was enough water in the fields. He completed sowing within a few weeks with the help of the traditional system of “MALEYEH”. This would help him secure food for his family for six-seven months, provided he keeps clearing the weeds that will inevitably grow on his paddy field and amidst prayer that his crops aren’t affected by disease – for he has to pay half his total crops as rental to the landlord and the owner of the oxen. In November his paddy fields ripened and in the meantime he dedicated his time in growing vegetables which he would sell in the nearest weekly market to earn some cash to buy household utensils, clothes, blankets, books for the children, soaps, detergents and etc.
In 2010, with his life’s savings Pradip finally purchased a piece of land measuring three and a half bigha at Modokko Nala, a full fledged Chakma village, but unrecognised by the government. All along he had to endure the hardship of various anti-Chakma campaigns and the worry of being expelled unjustly by his landlord right at the time of harvesting and depriving him of their rightful share of crops, as is many times known to happen.
Today, he has two able sons for help in trying to better the lives of his family. Assisted by his sons, Pradip managed to plant a betel nut garden which will earn him some cash in the next four five years. He single handedly dug a pond with a hoe where he managed to build a fish farm. He also engages himself in Jhum cultivation in the nearby hills to meet his requirements for staple food. Blessed with grandsons through his eldest son and his daughter, Pradip is all smiles, having secured some respite from the hunger that was his constant companion. His life and many others like him provide an inspiring story of grit, determination, and struggle against all odds just to survive.