Aizawl (zoramobserver.com): Mizoram’s main opposition party, the Mizo National Front (MNF) on Thursday asserted that Chakmas, who migrated from neighbouring Bangladesh are non-indigenous people of Mizoram and urged the government to explain the definition of the term “indigenous.”
Asserting that the Chakma community are “foreigners”, who have no legal right to share the right of indigenous Zo tribes, MNF General Secretary and legislator Lalruatkima told a press conference here that the first entry of Chakmas into Mizoram’s soil happened way back in 1872 during the British period and they came as porter hired by the British. But none of them settled in Mizoram and returned to their homeland Bangladesh, he said.
“During their (Chakmas) early settlement in Mizoram in early 1900s, the British rulers used to levy tax from Chakmas as they are foreigners,” he said, adding that South Lushai Hills Superintendent ES Hyde had on March 21, 1944 issued a notification stating that the Chakmas are not given house pass and he find no genuine reason why the Chakmas should not pay tax as they are foreigners.
According to Lalruatkima, The Mizoram (Selection of Candidates for Higher Technical Courses) Rules was framed in 1993 and initially selection for medical and engineer courses was done based on merit list or percentage obtained by the candidates in their academic results. However, the 1993 rules was amended in 1999 during the MNF government after Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) protested on the ground that there were some unfair practices and irregularities in the selection criteria, he said.
As per the 1999 rules or amendment, applicants for medical and technical courses under state’s quota were classified into three categories for the purpose of seat allotment viz. category-I, category-II and category-III, Lalruatkima said.
He said that category-I was meant for ethnic Zo indigenous people of Mizoram.
MNF denies claims
Denying the allegation that MNF had committed a mistake by placing Chakmas under category-I in 1999 rules, Lalruatkima said that category-I which means indigenous people of Mizoram technically or automatically refer to Zo-ethnic people who are permanent residents of the state. “Therefore, a big mistake was committed when officials under Congress government included Chakmas under category-I,” he said.
He alleged that the inclusion of Chakmas under category-I of the state quota was a blunder committed by Congress government.
The opposition legislator also said that during 13 years from 1999 to 2013, there was no big trouble as far as quota issue was concerned as Chakma students did not claim the seats to be occupied by the Zo tribes. But it was in 2014 that the problem begun when 38 Chakma students appeared in state Medical & Technical Entrance Examination (SMTEE) under category-I. This ensued a strong protests from MZP which resulted in the arrest of at least 13 student leaders including former MZP president Lalhmachhuana.
The 1999 rules, however was amended by the Congress led state government in 2015 in the wake of agitation launched by MZP. The 2015 rules defined Category-I as Zo-ethnic people of Mizoram and relegated the Chakmas to category-II. The amendment rules, however, was stayed by the Gauhati High Court after Mizoram Chakma Students’ Union (MCSU) challenged it through PIL, Lalruatkima said.
He added that the quota issue rose again this year after 4 Chakma students were selected under category-I of the state’s MBBS quota, to share rights with the indigenous Zo tribes. This received strong agitation from the MZP who protested against the counselling for Chakma students which ultimately ended in injury of at least 22 innocent students in a police lathi-charge during a protest on July 20, he said.
In 2014, the student body asked the state Higher and Technical Education Department to explain the definition of “indigenous’. When H&TE failed to do so, it was refer to Law department to take legal opinion. However, the law department could not explain the definition of “indigenous” till date, Lalruatkima said.
“Had there been legal explanation on the term “indigenous” the problem of quota issue could have been averted long before,” he said.