Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Understanding the People of Arunachal Pradesh, India

Friends of Humanity is a NGO that remains committed to providing aid in a culturally sensitive way. We seek to help people in ways that support their rights as people to maintain a culture. Through understanding the chakmas people of Arunachal Pradesh, India, we can have a better understanding of their unique needs and how to help the Alice School Project improve their lives.

The chakmas are an ethnic group originating near eastern Bangladesh. The ethnic group faced particular disenfranchisement following the 1947 independence of India. When India gained independence from Britain, the state what divided along  religious lines to form the largely Hindu state of India and Muslim state Pakistan. The Indian Partition divided them but they are still very much emotionally attached and share the bonds of same history, language and culture. The Buddhist chakmas faced constant social and violent persecution as part of Pakistan until the state of Bangladesh was formed in 1971 with the help of India. Unfortunately this did not reduce the ill-treatment of this ethnic minority. Now the chakma population is estimated to be around 550,000 between Bangladesh, India, and Burna (Myanmar). As an ethnic minority with a Buddhist tradition, these people are subject to social exclusion and continued xenophobic prejudice

As the chakma people tried to gain independence and exercise self-determination, governments, particularly those of Bangladesh have dealt forcefully with chakma uprisings. The chakmas were largely forced out of their ancestral homelands with the construction of the Kaptai Dam by the then East Pakistan governmment. Traditional areas of cultivatable lands were submerged and thousands were displaced. Many migrated to Diyun, a small township in Arunachal Pradesh, India. However the only seat of political power and self-determination is the Chakma Autonomous District Council in India. This council only represents roughly 35% of the chakmas living in the Mizoram. The Chakmas in Arunchachal Pardesh remain similarly under represented 

In Bangladesh, they have been fighting to regain their own “homeland”; in Mizoram for basic rights and facilities, and in Arunachal Pradesh for a right to nationality. The Chakma peoplea are seen by many as are peace-loving people with a strong work ethic. Their form of agriculture is called “Jhum,” popularly known to the world as “slash-and-burn” method of cultivation or shifting cultivation. Chakmas also call it “Duk Haam”, meaning “hard task.” The Chakmas have their distinct culture, tradition and script. However they face severe culture security concerns. Their written script is dying out because many children lack the opportunity to learn the language in school

Friends of Humanity hopes to elevate the socio-economic status of the chakma people and help preserve their cultural identity through our work with the holistic development strategy of the the Alice School Project. 

Read more in The Chakmas: Life and Struggle by S.P. Talukdar

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