Students denied MBBS seats: End racism against indigenous Chakmas by encouraging merit, Mizoram CM urged
The Mizoram government cancelled seats of four Chakma students within hours of allocation on July 20 after a Mizo student body demanded that medical seats be allotted only to Mizo studentsUpdated: Aug 07, 2017 18:19 IST
Guwahati: The All India Chakma Students’ Union (AICSU) has urged Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla to end “oppression and racial discrimination” against indigenous Chakma minorities in the state after four students of the community were denied MBBS seats.
The four – Darshan Chakma, Nibir Chakma, Mini Chakma and Nibhir Tongchangya – were among 38 students selected to study MBBS and bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) under Mizoram quota through National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET).
The Mizoram quota seats are allotted by the Union ministry of health and family welfare under Central quota pool because the state has no medical college of its own. The state government, however, cancelled their seats within hours of allocation on July 20 after the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP, a student’s body) demanded that medical seats be allotted to Mizo students only.
“We condemn the cancellation of MBBS seats to the four indigenous Chakma students based on their NEET rankings. The Mizoram government must encourage merit, not communalism,” AICSU president Dilip Kanti Chakma told HT from Delhi.
The AICSU had staged a sit-in protest at Jantar Mantar on Monday to protest the racial discrimination and submitted a memorandum to Thanhawla through the state’s resident commissioner in Delhi.
In the memorandum, the AICSU demanded immediate reversal of the Mizoram (Selection of Candidates for Higher Technical Courses) Rules, 2016, and laws that discriminate against the indigenous Chakmas so that the rights of the minorities are protected as per the Mizoram Peace Accord of 1986.
Genesis of the problem
The four Chakma students had secured ranks 4, 9, 17 and 23 in Mizoram NEET ranking and were called for counselling to the office of the higher and technical education department in state capital Aizawl on July 19. But MZP members prevented them from entering the counselling venue that day.
On July 20, the police escorted the students and their parents or guardians into the counselling venue amid renewed protests by the MZP. The police also caned and tear gassed crowds of agitating students when they tried to break in.
Based on their rankings, Darshan Chakma was allotted a seat in Guwahati Medical College, Nibir Chakma in Jodhpur’s Dr SN Medical College, Mini Chakma in Burdwan Medical College and Nibhir Tongchangya in Raipur’s JLNM Medical College.
The counselling process for the four, including verification of their documents and payment of fees, was completed. But the MZP called an indefinite Mizoram bandh on July 21 to protest their selection.
Under pressure, officials negotiated with MZP on July 20 evening. The MZP called off the shutdown after the government “agreed that no Chakma students would be admitted in medical colleges under Mizoram quota”.
Minutes later, the department issued an “order” seeking re-counselling of the students who had completed their counselling on July 20. Eleven Mizo students however were exempted from re-counselling and were asked to take admission immediately in a medical college each in Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya.
The MZP had been arguing that the Chakmas, who migrated from Bangladesh, wre not “indigenous people of Mizoram” and could not be put under Category 1 of the Mizoram technical entrance examination rules. Officials in the past, the Mizo NGO alleged, had committed “a blunder by including Chakmas in this category.”
The MZP had protested the categorisation in 2015, following which the state’s higher and technical education department amended the rules to include “Zo-ethnic people who are native inhabitants” in Category 1 in the state’s selection criteria for college admissions.
The Gauhati high court stayed the new rules after the Mizoram Chakma Students’ Union challenged them and the Mizoram government had to abide by the (court) decision.
During their protest on Monday, the AICSU condemned Mizoram higher education minister R Romawia’s statement on July 26 that the “Mizoram government will defy the court to provide medical and engineering seats to only the sons of the soil”. According to him, only the Zo-ethnic people or Mizos are indigenous.
“The Chakmas too are sons of the soil, and the laws and policies of Mizoram that give preference to the majority Mizos for higher and technical education violate Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1966 ratified by India in 1968. Besides, Article 14 of the Indian Constitution as both Chakmas and Mizos are STs in Mizoram under the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, and hence there should not be any form of discrimination or differentiations between them,” the AICSU president said.
If there is a case of more affirmative action, the indigenous Chakmas deserve seats for medical and engineering courses as only 48% Chakmas are literate in Mizoram against 97.5% literacy among the Mizos, according to the 2011 census.
Rajya Sabha discussion
The issue of denial of MBBS seats to the four qualified Chakma students was raised in the Rajya Sabha last month. Bharatiya Janata Party’s Basawaraj Patil Cought the central government’s intervention to ensure that justice was done to the meritorious Chakma students.
He also raised the issue of Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Mizoram’s Kolasib district sending off 17 Chakma students due to alleged harassment and intimidation by some Mizo locals.