The Chakmas The people of Chittagong Hill Tracts
By students of National Institute of Education
Who are the Chakmas?
Lifestyle and Livelihood
Mâ€™pen, Arunachal Pradesh
Challenges that Chakmas face
Through our lens
Table of Contents
â€œWe live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.â€? - Jawaharlal Nehru
Who are the chakmas? The Chakmas are ethnic minority people who lives in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, located at Bangladesh. Predominantly Buddhist, they can be found in Northeast India, West Bengal, Bangladesh and Burma. The Chakmas fled East Pakistan in 1964-65, since they lost their land to the development of the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River. They eventually sought asylum in India. The Indian government set up relief camps in Arunachal Pradesh and a majority of them continue to live there even after five decades. According to the 2011 census, 47,471 Chakmas live4 in Arunachal Pradesh alone.
The Chakmas have been fighting for citizenship since 1960. However, due to illiteracy and lack of understanding, many of them have lost the legal document. Apart from denial of legal citizenship, Chakmas also face other forms of discrimination. They are abused, exploited, denied educational and employment opportunities and are often accused by other regions of being involved in criminal activities. At birth, children are not granted their birth certificate and although offered, in reality they are held back. In a joint statement issued by Government of India and Bangladesh, in 1972, the Chakmas were to be conferred citizenship but the State of Arunachal Pradesh opposed this and continues to do so.
The Supreme Court in September 2015, directed the central and Arunachal Pradesh governments to confer the citizenship rights on the â€œeligibleâ€? Chakmas. Many student groups and the Government of Arunachal Pradesh has opposed this decision and has filed a petition to the Supreme Court to re-examine the ruling objecting to the permanent settlement of Chakma in the state and their exclusion from the provisions of the Inner Line Permit. Retrieved from http://www.myanmarmatters.com/chakma -people-of-myanmar-bangladesh-india/5 http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/w ho-are-chakmas/article19682129.ece
Lifestyle and Livelihood The primary source of income are mostly derived from agricultural means with most of Chakma community being farmers, cultivating their own food resources to fulfil their consumption needs while on the other hand, selling cash crops, like popper, as an additional form of income.
The traditional Chakma house is made of bamboo built by themselves. It is constructed on a bamboo or wooden platform about two meters (six feet) above the ground.
Mâ€™Pen, Arunachal Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh lies in northeast India. It is located in the outer Himalayas and Patkoi Ranges. It is enriched with thick vegetation and many interesting wildlife. There are beautiful rivers and streams, which starts from the upper areas of Himalayas and Arakan Ranges and flow down to create the tributaries of Brahmaputra. The climate there is between sub-tropical and temperate. The areas in the lower parts of the state experience hot and humid climates while the middle areas are relatively cooler. The higher parts of witness snowfall during winter.
9 Retrieved from: https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Geograph y%20of%20Arunachal%20Pradesh&item_type=topic
Challenges that chakmas face Some concerns raised by the chief villagers when we went for house visits were the flood issue and the citizenship rights. Recently the village had experienced flooding in the village such that the bridge that was newly built, was destroyed. The chief villagers are planning ways on how they could reach to the government to help them manage and overcome the issue in case it occurs again. In addition to that, the school also mentioned that they are worried about the cost of maintaining the school as they are facing low funding. They are not getting sufficient financial support from the government to operate the school properly. These are their major concerns as they are stlll finding difficulties to reach out to the government due to their denied citizenship rights which hinders the process of overcoming such issues.
“The most scared reality thing is about the flood… they are really very scared about the river if they comes to the village, it will be destroyed, all the lands and all the villagers will be landless. So this one is the most important case which they are planning now.” - Assistant Village Chief
Help Environment Livelihood People Help Tourism is a tour operator and destination management consultant specialising in East and North East India. Since 1991, they supported various communities in the region in creating and establishing quality tourism destination with a unique local flavour. Help Tourism provides purposeful travel to natural areas to understand the culture and natural history of the environment without concealing actual threats.
Team Nalanda catching the sun rise with 2 of our tour guides.
What do they do? Due to commercialization, many communities that were dependant on natural resources are facing a crisis. Help Tourism has tried to initiate an alternative livelihood among such communities who are interested in conservation and ownership of the natural resources around them through the creation of jungle camp.
The logistics team that has been with us throughout our stay at Mâ€™pen.
(On the left) Our tour guide, translator and mommy for the entire trip, Tapashi. 13
through our lens
From the place where we stayed, we were able to see The Himalayas. The snowy peaks were clearly visible, leaving us in awe. The vast blue sky stretched all around, dotted with white fluffy clouds. During sunrise and sunset, we witnessed the red-orange sky in ombre hues where the majestic sun reigned supreme. As we climbed a steep slope to get to Punyabhumi Province, a thousand rows of flowers greeted us. â€œLife is a climb, but the view is great.â€? The view of the mountains were so picturesque especially when the sun rays were reflected by the slopes of the mountains. The view of the crystal clear river gave us a refreshing feeling. Being surrounded by nature was an14 experience we will never forget.
“”Do not judge for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. This is a quote that was fully experienced during this trip. The stereotypical idea of india is one filled with dirty streets and street hustlers everywhere trying to make a quick buck by ripping off tourist. Yet through this trip what i saw was a totally different side of this magnificent land, what i saw through the Chakma people were the tenacity and undying spirit of man. This spirit was showcased in their unwillingness to bend to the decisions of the local government who rejected their rights to citizenship.
I'm ashamed to have to say that what I took away from this trip was far more than anything that i could ever offer to them. The kids taught me the concept that “simplicity was bliss”, despite their young age, they were constantly happy regardless of the amenities that they lacked. Life became simple when we drew away from the allures of technology and embraced the beautiful nature around us.” - Jerome (BA Ed)
“I remembered myself sitting under the night sky which was brightly lit by the moon and decorated by countless of stars. While the music played in the background, two local children graced us with their presence. “Isn’t it (the night sky) beautiful?” I pointed to the sky. One of the children just smiled shyly and started fiddling with her hands, not at all amazed by the sight before me. It was then that I realised how familiar they were with the night sky and how lucky they were to witness an art piece from Heaven every night while we were blinded by lights of modernity back in Singapore. This incident, coupled with the nature walks that took my breath away made me wonder if the benefits technology brought to our lives really outweigh the loss of nature which we suffered and if it is something good to bring over to this small village filled with breath-taking sceneries.” - Sharon (BSc Ed)
Project Nalanda 2017