Why are we insulted every election, ask Chakmas

Amarendra Chakma, the assistant liaison officer at Chakma House here, feels insulted before every election in Mizoram. The Assembly elections on November 28 is no exception.

"We (Chakmas) are discriminated in every sphere as we are minorities and are often insulted as foreigners. But they have not been able to detect a single foreigner so far. But it was more insulting this time when they asked all political parties not to field a Chakma candidate," Amarendra told DH, pointing to the NGOs representing the majority Mizo community.

Chakmas, having a population of nearly 1.2 lakh, concentrated in  Mamit, Lunglei, Lawngtlai and Kolasib districts are mainly Buddhists and are often suspected as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The total population of Mizoram is about 11 lakh.

"Mizoram takes pride in nearly 90% literacy, which is the second highest after Kerala but it is less than 50% among the Chakmas. The issues of healthcare and education needs are neglected in Chakma areas, and they have been denied state government jobs beyond the grade IV ones. Four bright students were denied admission in medical college even after clearing the national medical entrance just because they are Chakmas. When will this discrimination end?" he asked.

"This is a political tactic. They are again insulting the Chakmas to consolidate votes of the majority Mizos," he said.

Buddha Dhan Chakma, a minister in the Lal Thanhawla-led Congress government, resigned recently citing such discrimination and joined the BJP. 

Fearing backlash from the 97% Christian Mizo voters, the Congress and regional Mizo National Front (MNF) initially decided not to field Chakma candidates but later relented. The BJP, which is for the first time contesting in 39 of the 40 seats, however, fielded Chakma candidates and is concentrating in at least four constituencies where votes of minority Chakma, Brus and Maras can be a decider. Many say that the BJP could open their account in the Assembly in these constituencies only and can be partner of a coalition government led by the MNF.

"Chakmas and Brus will vote for us wholeheartedly and we are going to be part of the MNF-led coalition government after the polls," Premaranjan Chakma, a BJP worker based in Kamala Nagar, the headquarters of Chakma Autonomous District Council in South Mizoram, said candidly.

The council was formed in 1972 under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. There are two other similar councils for the Maras and Lais, two other minority communities.

Nearly 11,000 Bru refugees, who have been languishing in relief camps in neighbouring Tripura since ethnic clashes in 1997, will cast their votes in makeshift polling stations at Kanhmun village in Mamit district. They will travel at least 60-km from their relief camps to cast their votes.

The Mizo NGOs had forced the Election Commission to remove S B Shashank, the chief electoral officer, who had purportedly tried to allow the Bru refugees to vote in their camps only.

The Mizo NGOs say the number of Brus was less when they left Mizoram in 1997 but illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh joined them through the borders in Tripura, increasing their population. Nearly 7,000 such Brus are awaiting inclusion of their names in the Mizoram electoral rolls.

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