The Settlements of the Chakma people in Arunachal

young-chakma-kids-with-their-traditional-ornaments

Photo: Chakma young kids (Courtesy: NEI People).

Well known to most people the Chakma are one of the largest displaced communities in the north east India. Coming in from Bangladesh in the 1960s, they are now in Tripura, Mizoram, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Perhaps, Arunachal Pradesh is where this community faced most oppositions and atrocities. In other states, they have received government support.

The Chakma of Arunachal are found in three settlements: Papumpare, Lohit and Changlang Districts. Highest number is in Changlang District. For details,

District Circle Village
Papumpare Balijan Chakma I to X
Lohit Chowkham Chakma I to III
Changlang Miao M’pen (3, 4, 6, 7, 8 Miles), Punyabhumi, Devapuri, Brajapur, Nandakanan, Kamlapuri, Deban I to III, Dharmapur
  Diyun Motripur I,Gautampur II, Shantipur III, Joytipur IV, Oboypur V, Dhompani VI, Dhompator, Udaipur, Joshnapur
  Bordomsa Bijoypur I to III
  Kharsang Milanpur, Gorokhpur, Rathnapur

 

To give a graphic description of the settlements in Changlang district: The villages stretch along the banks of the Noa Dihing river from Kharsang to Innao to Deban. Approximately, about 40 km from Kharsang/Innao to Deban. The area is larger between Kharsang to Innao (about 15 to 20 km) and then reduces to about one KM in Deban.

Due to the proximately to the river, the villages face huge problem during flood seasons. Paddy fields of several families are eroded each year. Moreover, there are no bridges over the River between the villages. Only local made wooden boats are operated that is risky for lives during flood seasons.

Moreover, the road connectivity in all the settlements, except for Diyun area, is in bad condition. The villages under Bijoypur and Dharmapur are surrounded in all sides by the river. Getting in and out of these villages are only by boats in rainy season. The villages in Deban are cut off by landslides most of the year. M’pen villages too are dependent on the mercy of the Pagla nadi (at 6th Mile).

This is the plight of a large chunk of the population of Chakma in Arunachal as given below (Census 2001).

District Total Population ST Population Chakma & Hajong Pop
Changlang 125,422 45,351 59,060
Lohit 125,086 40,552 4,406
Papumpare 122,033 69,007 1,534
Total 65,000

 

Christian Presence

Where are the Christians in Arunachal Pradesh?

A map from Centre for Policy Studies, gives a very good overview based on Census 2011. This shows where the Christians are found and where Christians are not present now.

christian-arunachal-2011-1

Source: Centre for Policy Studies

To correlate with the district locations I have borrowed another map from the same source.

arunachal-districts-1

Where are Christians?

A note from the Center for Policy Studies mentioned: “In conclusion, Christianity seems to have made deep inroads in the eastern Tirap district and in the western and central Kameng, Siang and Dibang regions, especially in the former two. Many of the major tribal communities inhabiting these regions namely, Nocte, Wancho, Nyishi, Nissi, Adi, Tangsa, etc.—had acquired a considerable share of Christians already in 2001. During 2001-11, the proportion of Christians in the total population of Arunachal Pradesh has risen considerably from 18.7 to 30.3 percent. The increase is much more marked in the regions of Christian dominance that we have mentioned. Though religion data for the individual tribal communities has not been published till now, yet it seems that many of the communities that had been substantially Christianised in 2001, may have become entirely or predominantly Christian now.”

Where are Christians Not?

Their description gives clear picture about where the Christians are. I think the Christians should look at where the Christians are not found. In the perspective, the most notable among the districts are Anjaw, Dibang Valley, Upper Siang, West Kameng and Tawang. Those are the areas of the Mishmi, Adi and Monpa tribes.

Another way of looking

The Census of India 2011 gives in terms of percentages of religious adherents in each district. See the last four districts that have less than ten percentages of Christians.

District Christian Hindu Muslim Sikh Buddhist Jain Other Religions Not Stated
Tirap 74.45% 18.47% 0.99% 0.05% 0.69% 0.04% 4.76% 0.56%
Kurung Kumey 55.59% 5.28% 0.51% 0.05% 0.13% 0.09% 37.10% 1.25%
Papumpare 47.80% 32.30% 3.48% 0.18% 2.70% 0.08% 12.79% 0.68%
East Kameng 47.19% 15.67% 0.83% 0.05% 0.57% 0.03% 35.41% 0.24%
Lower Subansiri 41.43% 11.50% 1.78% 0.03% 0.23% 0.02% 44.66% 0.33%
West Siang 26.69% 14.14% 1.98% 0.51% 2.95% 0.04% 53.45% 0.24%
Changlang 24.27% 32.17% 1.44% 0.06% 33.99% 0.06% 7.92% 0.09%
East Siang 18.40% 28.07% 2.31% 0.07% 0.78% 0.03% 49.78% 0.55%
Lower Dibang Valley 17.04% 53.47% 4.15% 0.06% 5.42% 0.04% 19.22% 0.61%
Upper Siang 15.98% 14.90% 1.16% 0.08% 7.30% 0.02% 59.36% 1.21%
Upper Subansiri 10.52% 16.15% 0.62% 0.03% 0.36% 0.01% 71.24% 1.07%
West Kameng 10.08% 37.24% 2.35% 0.39% 42.99% 0.08% 6.62% 0.24%
Lohit 7.33% 67.95% 2.64% 0.14% 16.78% 0.07% 4.99% 0.09%
Dibang Valley 2.79% 39.24% 1.39% 0.09% 1.57% 0.02% 53.31% 1.59%
Tawang 1.55% 23.69% 1.57% 2.33% 69.87% 0.14% 0.70% 0.13%
Anjaw 1.28% 61.83% 3.09% 1.29% 3.04% 0.06% 28.99% 0.41%

 

Chakma Words

Below are a few words I wrote down in my notebook. They are the Chakma language spoken in Deban area of Changlang District.

NO CHAKMA WORD ENGLISH EQUIVALENTS
1. bekone echi We came together
2. gaigai echi I came alone
3. undur rat
4. ranimilei widow
5. ranamorat widower
6. nomonchok transgender
7. kaini meaning
8. rongalao pumkin
9. itche today
10. hilliya tomorrow, yesterday
11. porso day after tomorrow
12. torso day after porso
13. hongelo crab
14. pohor day
15. zon moon
     
  Spoken to bullocks while ploughing  
16. titi go right
17. ere go left
18. bowbow turn
19. boow stop

 

Meyor

Zakhring - Copy.jpg

Photo courtesy: Chakravorty

An article by the Look East Spark rightly pointed out this tribe is one of the least studied tribe of the State. I searched information about them and found only two sources. One by Ambika Aiyadurai “The Meyor: A least studied frontier tribe of Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India”(2011) and subsequently “The Zakhring Community of Arunachal Pradesh: Notes on a Lost Tribe” by Mridul Kumar Chakravorty (2015).

Meyor or Zakhring

Here is an extract from Chakravorty’s report on the identity of Meyor and Zakhring: The 1978 Gazetteer of Lohit district mentions that Zakhrings and Meyors are separate groups. The Census of India (1981) could find only 14 Zakhring people which declined from 23 (Census of India, 1971), while the population of the Meyors increased from 100 (Census of India, 1971) to 238 (Census of India, 1981). My ethnographic field observation reveals that Zakhrings and Meyors are considered as synonymous.”

Perhaps here is a case where one tribe went to merge with the other. The 14 Zakhring people is about 2 to 3 families in Arunachal Context. In addition, the Meyor were recognized as a Scheduled Tribe of Arunachal Pradesh in 1998. That accorded benefits to merge as one.

More on People

The population of Meyor/Zakhring was 300 in 2002 (Wikipedia). They live in Walong and Kibitho Circles of Anjaw District. They live in 11 villages (Aiyadurai). Some of their village names include: Dong, Karoti in Kibithoo. Their villages are located along the Indo-China borders and in the river banks of Lohit River.

People have more affinity to Mishmi than with the Tibetans. They belong to the Mahayan Buddhist sect.

The people use Meyor as their surname. They have an association called Meyor Welfare Society.

Miju Mishmi

images-4

Photo courtesy: The Hindu

The Miju Mishmi is also called Kaman or Kammaan. They number 35,000 (Britannica) and are one of the three Mishmi tribes.  The tribe primarily lives in Lohit and Anjaw Districts. The Ethnologue said they live in 25 villages.

More specifically the people live in several villages along the Deban to Zero road. An unpublished research report of Samuel Nelson[i] says, “The Miju Mishmis are distributed in the relatively higher altitudes of the eastern part of Lohit district. Their territory includes the upper Lohit and Dau Valleys; the area to the east of the Hayuliang, Billong, and Tilai valleys; and the southern part of Lohit district. Some of them are settled in and around Tezu city.” Wikipedia located the area of Miju between the Lohit and Kambang Rivers right upto the Rima Frontiers.

Their area has several attractive locations. The first is the sacred Hindu site, Parasuramkunda, near Wakro town has attracted thousands of devotees each year. The highway from Chowkham is planned to be extended that worship place. The second is Glow Lake located at the origin of the Kamlang River. Then there is Kamlang Wildlife Sanctuary, now almost reduced to cultivation. And then the Namdapha National Park at the Southern part of their territory.

A good description about the area and notes from bird lovers.

Some Highlights

One of the distinctions about the tribe is rearing of Mithuns. Other than Nyishi and Adis in the western and middle of the State, perhaps Mishmis are the only tribe that keeps this State animal. These huge animals are reared mostly in jungle, few in villages. They are expensive and serve primarily for two purposes: bride price and for sacrifice. Over three mithuns are paid for a bride. Depending on the importance of the occasion, mithuns are sacrificed.  A short article on Mithuns.

Another limelight is being the largest cardamom producing area in the State. The Economic Times has this statistic “Anjaw produced 150 metric tonnes of the spice with a financial turnover of Rs nearly 12 crore during the financial year 2010-11.”  Now this spice plantation extended to almost every Mishmi inhabited village.

Their area is also known for producing large quantities of oranges. Traveling along the Deban to Zero you will lots of huge gardens of oranges. Farmers obtain much of their revenues from this cultivation. A news item reported about the income from oranges and the changes in lifestyle it brought. One person earned as much Rs 45 lakhs per year! The fruit is transported to Karimganj, Bangladesh.

A Major Issue

The major problem seems to be the addiction to opium. One person, Razzeko Dele, wrote at AP Times about its impact in the Mishmi Hills. Few extracts from this article: Opium has become a treat… has been using for 150 years… no wonder users and producers increased… has accepted as part of their culture. Really a big predicament that affected the whole of society in their health and income.

[i] Samuel, Nelson. 2001. The Mishmi of Arunachal Pradesh: a brief survey (Unpublished research report).

 

Sartang Tribe

sartang

Photo: Sartang youths (Courtesy: http://bomdilabuddhamahotsava.com/)

I heard about the Sartang tribe a few years ago while browsing on the languages of Arunachal Pradesh at the Ethnologue. But that was a distant feeling until a news report surfaced at the Arunachal Times on 12 September 2016 highlighting their identity crisis being categorized as a sub-tribe of Monpa. That inspired me to dig deeper on this lesser known tribe of the State.

The Environment

This small tribe of about 3000 to 5000 people inhabit in the West Kameng District under two Circles: Nafra Circle (in Jerigaon and Khoina villages) and Dirang Circle (in Salari and Rahung villages).  Check on the exact location from a map (see no. 171).

The Nafra Circle has 34 villages. The two Sartang inhabited villages, Jerigaon and Khoina, has the population of 534 and 248 respectively (Census of India 2011). More detail information about the circle is available in another site. And the Dirang Circle has 81 villages and the two villages of Sartang has 569 and 57 peoples.

Around this tribe there are several other communities. Perhaps, the closest to them would be Monpa, Sherdukpen and Sajalong (Miji), so much so that their belief system has been influenced by them. An Arunachal journalist mentioned that half of the tribe living closer to Monpa follow Buddhism and those living close to Sajalong practices traditional tribal religion.

There are six major tribes of West Kameng District – Monpa, Miji (Sajolang), Aka (Hrusso), Sherdukpen, Sartang and Bugun. Together, they participate a yearly event called Bomdila Festival that aims to attract tourists.

A contributor at Wikipedia says Sartang is a cover term and has four languages.  Documentation was done for the languages spoken in three villages. The language is closest to Sherdukpen. (See Wikipedia).

The Issue

As with any minority tribes, the Sartang are undergoing an identity crisis. The concerned authorities refuse to acknowledge their unique identity, rather considered a sub-group of Monpa tribe. This problem appeared at least twice at Arunachal Times: by Taba Ajum (23 October 2013) and Amar Sangno (12 Sep 2016).

Amar documented their crisis this way: “…It is said that on 19 March 2000, Sartang tribe was approved as one of the major tribes of Arunachal Pradesh. Subsequently, many had received Schedule Tribes (ST) certificates issued by Deputy Commissioner, Bomdila between 2001 to 2002.

Later, then Chief Secretary Tabom Bam issued a notice to DC Bomdila instructing him to issue ST certificate as per the Constitution (ST) Order 1950. Since then certificates are being issued to the Sartang as one of the Monpa tribe.…”

It looks like two apex bodies, the Sartang Elite Society and the Sartang Welfare Society, continue to lead the community to gain an official recognition. In the process they are also demanding for a separate Circle Headquarters at Selari, perhaps to enhance their unique identity.

I hope and pray they will find solutions to their aspirations.

Two researches

  • Gender Inequalities Of Sartang Tribe In West Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh (Published at Impact Journals, July 2015) researched by Cheten Jomba Rockpudu & Tage Rupa
  • Tradition and Culture of Sartang Tribes of West Kameng district by Mudang Tagiya and Chetan Jomba Rock Pudu (AP TImes 29 August 2016)

Growth of Christianity in Arunachal Pradesh

Between 1971 and 2011

The State has undergone major changes in terms of religious demographics during the last four decades. In 1971 Christians were only 0.8%. The figure jumped to 30% in 2011 (Census of India), becoming the largest group in the State. The growth curve shows below its progress.

image005-756213

Source: Religion Data of Census 2011: XIII Arunachal Pradesh (accessed: 16 July 2016).

Next graph is this decade’s status of religions in Arunachal Pradesh. Next to Christianity are Hindu, Others (mostly Donyi-polo) and Buddhist. The converts to Christianity had been primarily from “Others” and very minimal from Hindu, Buddhist and other religions.

image006-758488

Source: Religious Composition of AP (Census of India 2011).

What people say are the reasons for conversions

An article in NY Times listed several opinions:

  • Christianity’s infiltration into Arunachal Pradesh began slowly, mostly through locals who descended into the Assamese plains to be educated in well-regarded missionary schools there, only to return with a new religious zeal, as well as English-language skills and new names like John and James. – Anthropologist – Stuart Blackburn.
  • Some practical, like the need for better education and healthcare, which churches promised to bring, and others more spiritual. “Our people are religious by nature. – Mr. Stephen, Catechist at St Joseph’s Cathedral.
  • Many tribals converted out of a desire to be modern, since Christianity was often seen in the same boat as modernity. – Prof. Nani Bath of RGU.
  • For those with a 21st-century mindset, the traditional wedding practice of slaughtering dozens of mithuns, a type of mountain bovine, was disagreeable. – Lisa Lomdak, Linguist at RGU

The above talks about why conversion took place. The Operation World (2000) mentioned who did the work: by Indian missionaries from Nagaland and other North Eastern states. At that time, there were 1,000 churches. 90% of those were from the Baptists.

Needed Focus

Wikipedia talks about 101 recognized tribes and classified them by religions:

  • 37 are having an animist majority (Nyishi, Adi, Galo, Tagin, Adi Minyong, Adi, Apatani, Bugun etc.)
  • 23 are having a Christian majority (Wancho, Dafla, Mossang Tangsa, Bori, Yobin.etc.),
  • 15 are having a Hindu majority (Mishmi, Mishing/Miri, Deori, Aka, Longchang Tangsa.etc.), and
  • 17 are having a Buddhist majority (Monpa, Khampti, Tawang Monpa, Momba, Singpho, Sherdukpen etc.).
  • The remaining 8 tribes are multi-faith, i.e. doesn’t have a dominant religion (Nocte, Tangsa, Naga etc.)

The Census revealed majority of converts to Christianity occurred from animist background; less from other religions. That means more missionary work could have been focusing on them.

In the days to come, it would make sense to focus missionary/church work among the Hindu majority, Buddhist majority and multi-faith tribes.

Scriptures that brought attention:

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the sea is covered by the waters – Habakkuk 2:14

And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will put up a kingdom which will never come to destruction, and its power will never be given into the hands of another people, and all these kingdoms will be broken and overcome by it, but it will keep its place for ever. Daniel 2:44

Jesus told the people another story. He said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like this. A man took a mustard seed and planted it in his field. A mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. But the plant that grows from it is bigger than other plants. Matthew 13:31-32