The Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) has directed the Arunachal Pradesh government to include the Chakma and Hajong communities in the COVID-19 relief programme.
In a letter to the State’s Chief Secretary, Naresh Kumar, on April 29, DoNER Joint Secretary Rambir Singh cited the complaint by a Delhi-based rights group to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office for treating the issue as a “matter of priority” in “these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic”.
According to the Rights and Risks Analysis Group, a majority of the Chakmas and Hajongs living in the State for the last 56 years have been facing massive food shortage because of their exclusion from the relief programme.
More than 50,000 members of the two communities were settled in the State in the early 1960s after they were displaced by a dam and ethnic violence in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
The rights group said that the local administration in the State’s Changlang district trimmed the list of 1,544 families of extremely poor Chakmas and Hajongs by about 60%. As a result, some 600 families were being counted as beneficiaries for buying rice at market prices instead of the pandemic-related specially subsidised rates for people below and above the poverty line.
There are allegations of discrimination in Mizoram too.
The Mizoram Chakma Alliance Against Discrimination (MCAAD) on Friday appealed to Chief Miniter Zoramthanga to provide relief to more than 1,000 Chakma tribal people from the State stranded across the country due to the lockdown.
“The State government has provided the bulk of ₹2.34 crore from the Chief Minister Relief Fund to 43 Mizo NGOs to assist the stranded people from Mizoram but not a single Chakma NGO has been assisted. The government should reach out to the Chakmas who constitute 8.8% of Mizoram’s total population,” MCAAD president Paritosh Chakma said.