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Guwahati High Court turned over the new rules of Government of Mizoram regarding changing the reservation category of Chakmas

The single judge bench of Guwahati High Court declared unconstitutional to the new reservation rules 2016 of Government of Mizoram regarding the changes in the reservation category of Chakmas schedule Tribes in the State. This decision of the High Court will be effective from the next academic year i.e. 2019-2020. The Congress government of Lalthanhawla brought new rules of reservation in 2015 for admission in state’s colleges specially in the courses of engineering and medical education.These new rules of reservation came into effect from 2017 in the State Technical Education Entrance Exams for admission in engineering and medical study courses. On the basis of new rules of 2016 the Government created three categories of reservation in Mizoram. In the first category of reservation Zo-tribes as Mizo STs (Lushai tribes) are included and interestingly 95% of reservation to this category of 74% population of Mizo tribes. The second category is of non-Zo tribes or non- Mizo STs including Chakmas and Brusalong with children of Central Government employees who are posted in the state.In this category only 4% reservation to 20% population of non-Zo tribes including children of the Central Government employees.And third category is of non-STs or general communities. Only 1% reservation for 6% population in the third category.

Thus, the State Government of then the time excluded Chakmas and Brus from the ST category through new rules of reservation. Asin 2016, Government of Mizoram tinkered in the rules of ST reservation in the State with one purpose of withdrawal the ST status of Chakma and Bru communities. And this was reflected in the change of ST status ofChakmas from the first categoryof all ST communities into second category of non-Mizo tribes. By this way, Chakma tribals are not treated as par with Mizo tribes. In 2017-2018 admission in state’s technical educational institutions of engineering and medical courses, almost Chakma students missed out in the admission for these high profiled professional courses. Then after, Mizoram Chakma Student Union led by Jagadish Chakma filed a PIL before Guwahati High Court in 2017 to giving challenge to the new rules of Mizoram Government.But this PIL was dismissed by the HC on the technical ground. After this initial sabotage to the interest of Chakma students, once again a PIL submitted in early 2018 before the same court.

The PIL was prepared on the three grounds: first, new rules of 2016 are anti-Chakma students as tinkering in the ST status and category of Chakmas. Only the Central Government can change the ST rules not the State Government. Second, new rules of State Government in reservation under ST category are against constitutional articles as the Schedule Tribes are homogeneous group across the country.As any such sub-category division of the ST(Chakma Schedule Tribes) is not permissible without Parliamentary legislation or the Presidential Order. On what grounds the State Government brought changes in the ST status of Chakma, was became a matter of law in the High Court. Third, the State Government’s back door tinkering in the reservation has not legal justification.The director of Guwahati based think tankRights and Risks AnalysisGroup, Suhas Chakma provided legal and official assistants to the petitioner of this PIL for successful decision in this case in Guwahati High Court.

Profile of Chakma Community in Mizoram

Chakma community is recognised under category of Schedule Tribes in Mizoram.For the first time, Chakmas was included in the State ST category in 1999. Chakmas are religiously Buddhist, presently live in Chittagong in Bangladesh, Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Chakma community is the largest minority in Mizoram. The population of Chakmas is around 80 thousand and live in Chakma ADC in Lawngtlai district of Mizoram. The ADC is governed under the scheme of 6th Schedule of Indian constitution. The state has a DCC ministry to manage their affairs. There are total three ADCs in Mizoram, apart from Chakma ADC, other two are Lai ADC and Mara ADC. All three ADCs are located in South Mizoram. The Chakma ADC shares border with Bangladesh. It is said that there are 30 thousand Bangladeshi Chakma as according to the data of Mizo civil society like YMA. The majority Mizo community considers to Chakma and Bru as refugees of Bangladesh. Mizos treat them as illegal foreigners in the State. Both minority communities use to face discrimination by the majority Mizo community in the state.

The Chakma population is 8% of the total population of Mizoram. Only 2 out of 40 MLA constituencies are under Chakma community’s areas in the state. In the recent state Assembly elections (November 2018) , first time BJP opened its account in Assembly by winning a MLA seat in Chakma areas. Former Congress MLA and Chakma leader BD Chakma left to Congress and joined BJP a couple moths before Assembly elections. Another Chakma seat is won by Congress. After elections, new Government in the state fulfilled its poll promise of liquor banning. As the government brought liquor under temporary ban from 21 December. However the state government’s rules do not apply on ADCs.

State of Other Minority Communities in Mizoram

Second largest minority tribal community is Brus. Around 30 thousand of Brus fled into Tripura due to eruption of ethnic clashes in 1997. Since then Brus have been living in refugee camps in Tripura. The Bru community constituted 6% of state’s population. Their home return is not happening at presently. However, the state government has been trying to repatriate of 31000 Brus from Tripura since 2009. Even after many attempts of their repatriation done by the state government but only a few thousand Brus returned to their homes in Mizoram from Tripura camps. Leaders of Bru refugee community are not satisfied with the repatriation package of the Central and State governments. The Bru community also want ADC. There is one more minority Hindu-Nepali community in the state. However this community enjoys the ST status in Mizoram, but it wants OBC status because this community can not not compete with Mizo tribes in ST category. One after one successive government in the state did not set up a OBC commission or committee to prepare a report on the status of Nepali community in the state. There is no SC and OBC categories in Mizoram. Both Chakma and Bru communities support to the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 that yet to be passed in Rajya Sabha. Even Mizoram has not constituted State Human Rights Commission, State Commission of Women and State Minority Commission.

Dr Suwa Lal Jangu is Assistant Professor of Political Science in Mizoram University

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