Keeping Track of Progress
CRDO Successes and Challenges:
With the birth of CRDO, an important truth about the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh has dawned as if a beautiful landscape has all of a sudden come into view after the mist and fog has lifted from the horizon. The all important truth is that Chakmas and Hajongs are already citizens – 90% of them by birth and 10% by the fact that they were put up in refugee camps initially but finally rehabilated as Indian nationals (hence citizenship was implicitly granted). It is another matter though that the issue has been politicized, de-recognizing some of the citizenship rights already given through disenfranchisement, striping off rights one after on the ground of nationality. Unlike many other states, the onus has been put on the Chakmas to prove they are not foreigners.
The phrase “grant of citizenship rights” habitually used with respect to the purported status of the Chakmas and Hajongs of Arunachal Pradesh is misleading. It is not so much about grant of citizenship but about restoration of rights as citizens that they once enjoyed and being allowed to exercise these rights just like anybody else with ST status in Arunachal Pradesh.
Having undertaken numerous path-breaking initiatives keeping in mind its core values of TRUTH, TRUST and TRANSPARENCY, objectives and mandate, CRDO achieved success in varying degrees in the year gone by. In the process, CRDO faced daunting challenges, many of which were successfully dealt with while many are still work-in-progress.
General Body Meeting
A General Body meeting of CRDO was organized in the month of December 2018 at the Circuit House, Diyun, Arunachal Pradesh whereby bye-law of CRDO was formally adopted and participation of the Chakma community in the Bodo Sahitya Sabha in January 2019 was finalized. In addition, it was also decided CRDO would help in every way possible to organize Bizu Mela 2019.
The invitation to participate in the Bodo Sahitya Sabha came through the Chakmas of Papumpare. It was a great opportunity for the Chakma Community to further strengthen the bond of friendship with one of the major tribal communities of Assam.
By way of making participation of the Chakma community at the Bodo Sahitya Sabha broad-based and truly representative of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh, CRDO led by its President Mahendra Chakma travelled through the length and breadth of the Chakma inhabited villages starting from Deban to Ratnapur/Gulokpur/Bijoypur to Diyun and Chowngkam including Papumpare and delivered the message of the Bodo Sahitya Sabha invitation, its significance, motivated and inspired the public who in turn expressed support and appreciation with their feet.
Subsequently, a group comprising of one cultural troupe, Gaon Burahs, Mahila Samiti representatives, well-wishers and CRDO delegates successfully and with much fulfillment represented the whole Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh at the prestigious Bodo Sahitya Sabha showcasing Chakma culture, tradition, music, model house to lakhs of visitors and revelers from across the world.
In the meantime, CRDO President Mahendra Chakma was felicitated and invited to share the dais with prominent dignitaries including Nyshi Elite Society, Government of Assam senior officials, various Bodo leaders, academicians and other Bodo stalwarts among whom was Bodo Territorial Council chief and deliver a speech on behalf of the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh.
Participation at Bodo Sahitya Sabha was a historic moment for the Chakma community and also it was a massive success which truly strengthened Bodo-Chakma friendship.
Aadhar Card and Birth Certificates
There are some families so poor that they cannot even afford to pay the fees required for procuring important documents like the Birth certificates and Aadhar cards. CRDO conducted special awareness camps and is very pleased that it has managed to arrange and help these needy either free of cost or very minimal charges and provided free affidavits.
Trafficking of Minor Children
Many minor Chakma children are being sent outside the state to work as domestic help or maid and are subjected to cruelty and exploitation of all kinds. CRDO’s efforts helped such a minor boy and a girl which made their reunion with their family possible. CWWS members were engaged and awareness sessions against sending children to work to remote places done. With growing awareness, reported instances of minor Chakma children being sent away from their homes to work as domestic help or maid have come down. However, some children are still being sent away to work in a clandestine manner.
Counseling and awareness campaign about child marriage/human trafficking were carried out at Dumpani village. CRDO assisted filing of an FIR regarding a missing girl sent to work as maid was filed at Tinsukia PS and the case is still going on to trace the missing Chakma girl.
Illegal Sand mining
Extraction of boulder and sand not only increases soil erosion and vulnerability of river banks but also has the potential to change the river course which may inundate hundreds of villages in different directions. Let’s stop sand mining! Coordinated efforts have been put in place with other stakeholders to stop sand, shingles, boulder mining from Noa-Dehing banks and river bed.
Noa-Dehing Flood Victims
Nao Dehing claimed two lives this year. It swept away a woman and a young girl who hailed from Udaipur village during the peak flood season apart from eroding cultivable land on the sides of its banks and inundating vast expanse of lands for days on end destroying crops and vegetable plantations.
Drug addiction especially opium has been the bane of many a Chakma and other tribal youths. For most addicts, it is a condition of no return as they have no access to any kind of de-addiction facilities or professional counseling. Generally, victims of drug addiction see no hope of getting their lives back.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016
is pending before parliament and a memorandum to the Chairperson of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has been submitted from CRDO.
Electoral summary revision
Awareness campaigns have been extensively carried out and assistance provided to correctly fill the Form 6 for new voter enrolment.
Appeal and RTI against rejection of Form 6 in the matter of voter inclusion is pending before the appellate authorities.
When the final electoral draft roll was published, CRDO helped file individual claims and petitions to the District Electoral Officer against rejection of their voter enrolment applications. CRDO continues to follow up on and track the petitions filed earlier.
A memorandum was also submitted to ADC Bordumsa seeking clarity on form fill-up to avoid rejection on technical grounds in future as a preventive measure.
Letter to Prime Minister
A letter to Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narenda Modi ji has been written by the President of CRDO requesting the PM for political recognition of Chakmas and Hajong migrants as citizens of India, either through en-masse declaration or implementation of the Supreme Court order, special revision for enrolment of about 25,000 eligible voters and inclusion of all Chakma areas under local self-government (PRI) ; socio-economic rights and access to development schemes under the MGNREGA, NRLM, PMGAY, etc., government jobs/ employment , PRC, ration card and all other PDS entitlements, recognition of Chakma and Hajong tribes as ST in AP under article 342 of the Indian constitution and a one-time special package to compensate for the historical injustices done during the last 5 decades. A request for maintaining a conducive environment and peaceful co-existence to all the stakeholders and stop unnecessary harassment of poor and marginalized Chakma farmers commuting to and from Assam to sell vegetables at the state border areas/gates in the name of ILP, amongst other requests was placed before the Hon’ble PM for necessary consideration.The same has been forwarded to the state government for necessary action on 3rd Sep 2018 and is pending with the concerned authorities in the state.