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Mizoram Cong minister quits to protest racism after Chakma students denied MBBS seats

Buddha Dhan Chakma handed in his resignation after the government decided that the state quota for medical seats will be reserved only for students from Zo ethnic community

india Updated: Aug 21, 2017 15:09 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
zo,mizo,mizoram ethnic clashes
A general view of Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram.(Shutterstock)

A minister in Lal Thanhawla’s Congress government in Mizoram resigned on Monday to protest the denial of medical seats to four qualified Chakma students in a case of alleged racial discrimination.

The resignation was also to save chief minister Thanhawla the “uneasiness in maintaining the glory of democracy of our state where all of us should feel at home”, Buddha Dhan Chakma, who resigned as minister of state for fisheries and sericulture, said.

The four Chakma students were among 38 selected to study MBBS and bachelor of dental surgery under Mizoram quota through National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2017.

Two of them, ranked 9 and 23, are from Tuichawng, the assembly constituency in Lunglei district that Chakma represents. The seat is reserved for the scheduled tribes.

“The deputy secretary to the CM received my resignation letter. I am awaiting his decision,” Chakma, 44, told HT from state capital Aizawl.

In his letter, the minister pointed out that the state’s higher and technical education department had on July 20 called the four NEET-qualified Chakma students for counselling, a necessary procedure before allotment of seats.

But the department’s commissioner cancelled their counselling that very day and called for re-counselling, the date for which has not yet been fixed. On July 26, higher and technical education minister R Romawia said that the state’s MBBS quota would be reserved exclusively for the Zo-ethnic people of Mizoram, Chakma said.

The Zo-ethnic group, collectively called Mizos, form more than 85% of the Mizoram’s population.

“From his press statement, it is clear that he is not going to give any MBBS seat to non-Zo ethnic students and it indicates a clear denial of MBBS seats to those four meritorious students and this is not acceptable by me,” Chakma wrote.

Buddha Dhan Chakma’s resignation letter. (HT photo)

NGOs such as Mizo Zirlai Pawl, representing the Zo ethnic groups, claim that most of the Chakmas are outsiders who migrated from Bangladesh. Apart from the ruling Congress, political parties such as Mizo National Front and Zoram Nationalist Party have sought an action committee to drive out any Chakma who entered the state after January 1950.

Another party, Mizo People’s Conference, cited former chief minister Brigadier T Sailo’s belief that “Chakmas constitute a real danger to us (Zo ethnic group)”.

Organisations such as All India Chakma Students’ Union (AICSU), batting for the rights of the predominantly Buddhist community, have taken the issue to Delhi while urging the Mizoram government to end “oppression and racial discrimination” against indigenous Chakma minorities.

AICSU president Dilip Kanti Chakma welcomed the Mizoram minister’s resignation. “It sends a strong message that the Mizoram government should respect the merit of the students and the NEET results,” he said.

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 15:08 IST