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On The Problems And Survival Tactics Of Arunachal’s Chakma Community

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Problem definition is more vital than problem identification before it’s time to look for or find the solution. Take for example, when the target is moving, it is more difficult to hit the target. Also, take the example of the current scenario of a global pandemic in the wake of the coronavirus which has been found to mutate and hence, causes all the more difficulty in formulating a vaccine.

As far as the problems of Arunachal Chakma community are concerned, at the broader or macro level, restoration of rights is more or less the problem and also its solution. But, at the minute or micro level, the problems can be varied and diverse, both within as well as outside, not complex and yet not quite simple, compounded by lack of patience on the part of the people prior to drawing conclusions on the one hand, and a tendency to quickly announce a solution or even a problem for that matter on the other.

Chakma villagers queued up for voter summary revision exercise at Diyun, Arunachal Pradesh.
A file picture of Chakma villagers queued up for voter summary revision exercise at Diyun, Arunachal Pradesh.

Despite The Diversity, Chakmas Share A Common Root And Culture

Like in any well-knit community, ours is no exception even though we may be scattered and is a micro-community in the real sense, there are the commoners, the bourgeois, the community-based administrators, intellectuals, and the conscience keepers – the last may actually emerge from any of these prior categorizations. Their basic mental make-up, approaches, and outlooks are varied and diverse.

There is a constant tussle, push and pull, and a battle of wits among these, and as it is typical with any other micro-community, people often crossover from one categorization to another to suit situations and circumstances. The most prominent common ground among the people, however, is their sensibilities as they all originate from a common root and culture.

Therefore, the ground realities of these people, in general, at the micro-levels are defined and shaped by many unaccounted for dynamics apart from human behaviour and its inherent fallacies.

To gain some perspective, it’s worth recounting an instance of one lived experience which pertains to a routine job of procuring an LPG cylinder from the local supplier by an average Chakma.

To set the context, LPG cylinder service here is provided against an enviable backdrop from a business perspective of approximately ten-fold demand versus available supply. Like they say, too much of a good thing, even from a business perspective, can’t be true. But, in this case, that’s quite true as a matter of fact. Ironically, the paradox of what happens when too much of a good thing is actually true is hardly made a point of discussion which in this case is a veritable example.

Well, in plain words, one can say, when too much of a good thing is actually true especially from a business perspective, something is amiss, rather something is not quite right – it means there is a monopoly, lack of equal opportunity and fair competition leading to exploitation, injustice, and unfairness which in turn can directly be linked to the macro-level picture, namely Restoration of Rights vis-à-vis Arunachal Chakma community. To understand this unlikely link, it may be necessary to understand the very basis and idea of Restoration of Rights.

Now, to get back to the LPG cylinder procurement experience, following a change in supplier delivery policies, it so happens that delivery of LPG cylinders supposedly is to be done at the doorstep of the customer now and there is no need to pre-book anymore. There’s however the need to have prior information as to which direction or where the delivery motor vehicle is headed for the customers to be able to lay their hands on the LPG cylinders because the supplier, in reality, only delivers on the main roadside.

It’s also to be mentioned here that it’s a different rate on the higher side that is applied here on the LPG cylinders.

So, when the customer seeks information over the phone in which direction or where the delivery motor vehicle is headed today, the customer gets a vague and unclear answer. At first, it would drive them mad. It may be noted that the supplier is not directly linked with the administration itself. The customer, however, doesn’t mind not getting a proper response from the supplier anymore, because he or she has by now figured it out and knows exactly why he or she gets such an answer from the supplier.

In fact, the customer just about comes to know from the supplier’s reply that the delivery motor vehicle will be out today. Mysteriously enough, the available LPG cylinders get cleaned up from wherever the delivery vehicle may have been on the day in no time, as the first-come-first-serve basis customers would have already fit them in their kitchens by then. It is a kind of telepathic language that the supplier and the customers communicate in and it’s only them who understand it because it’s them who have developed it over time.

To recap, before the delivery of LPG cylinders takes place, almost every customer in need gives a ring to the supplier. In the meanwhile, the supplier cherishes the high demand coming from the numerous customers even though it’s become a pain in their neck because they inevitably fail to meet the demand every time. The supplier, however, likes it that way though.

The acute mismatch between demand and supply of LPG cylinders is actually the secret behind the supplier not giving prior information of delivery to all the needy customers as they know their supply of LPG cylinders would fall short. They don’t want to land themselves in the ignominy of having to blatantly turn down hard-earned cash from hordes of needy customers. And so, it’s their way of keeping their information discreet from customers.

It’s interesting though to note how exactly each stratum of the Chakma community of Arunachal Pradesh interprets these private exchanges and relationship shared between the supplier and the customer.

How Do Different Stratas Of The Community Approach This Relationship B/w The Supplier And Customer?

For the commoners, it’s solely about saving the day and in most cases, they miss the point of raising a voice amidst their routine struggle. As it’s with every other human being who doesn’t really want to stop living, as they are breathing, they just get busy living. On the other hand, the bourgeois of the Arunachal Chakma community is concerned that their needs should be met unhindered which they are used to, and try to ensure just that. Whenever they feel challenged, their voice will manifest in one form or the other.

However, often, they are given to scan their surroundings to locate mishaps and that’s probably a good thing but for their hasty responses and reactions that rather end up creating more confusion and more problems for the commoners than solve them. The perspective seen through their lens is clear and straightforward which is also reflected in their problem definition and issue redressal.

The words such as ‘big picture’, ‘nuances’, ‘nitty-gritty’, ‘ground realities’, etc. however are to be found in the obscure corners of their dictionary. They don’t mind crying wolf once in a while in the process of raising their voice if they think something is amiss. Sometimes, it might be a case of who calls dibs on a particular issue deemed worth highlighting or raising.

Meanwhile, the intellectuals and conscience keepers, with their natural tendency to pore over matters, are still working to come up with something definite and describable in its totality.

They, however, have promulgated one arguably fool-proof problem definition vis-à-vis the broader picture of the Arunachal Chakma community so far, namely Restoration of Rights and are out to bring a logical conclusion. The other strata of the community refuse to this, some due to egotism as well as dogmatism, others out of sheer habit and lack of requisite grasping ability. The truth is that everybody, to an extent, is struggling to wrap their head around the larger problem statement at hand as of now.

To many other observers, all of it might look and sound like confusion while others might see it as misinterpretation. But there’s no denying that it’s something curious going on.

The bigger question of why almost all NGOs and even CBOs, that are often fed with opinions and information from the bourgeois of Arunachal Chakma community and intellectuals, get it wrong while addressing the core issues being faced by these people, including the fringe issues arising thereof. The former generally try to describe and categorize, in one sweeping blanket cover, all the minutiae of the latter’s existential and survival issues rather than focussing on truth-based narrative, specific ground realities and the diverse dynamics at play.

It so happens that, due to lack of clarity especially in problem definition and subsequent attempts at redressal, the repercussions and resulting complications manifest every day in different shapes, sizes and feels in the lives of the people themselves and, by and large, they only adversely impact the people stationed at the bottom of the pyramid.

What escapes most people however is the fact that most often, the solution starts within before it can manifest outside practically. The outside is mostly what one makes of it. There is a need for people to rediscover their touch to humanize rather than to victimize at the drop of a hat. There is also a need of people to accept their own reality, in particular, and that of the community at large before they see light at the end of the tunnel.

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