Recognition is Assam tribe's last hope for survival

Forgotten and unrecognised by the State Government, they are getting wiped out. The community at Kamranga village, which is about 45 km away from Silchar town,is still struggling to get recognition as one of the Scheduled Tribes of Assam, while their counterparts in Manipur have got it. And with just 32 Chiru families residing in the village it seems they have lost all hope to get themselves recognised as a Scheduled Tribe.

Even when it comes to register names of the members of the Chiru families in any official work, they are not regarded as Chru tribal. Rather they are identified as Himar tribal. "For the 32 families at this village it is not only important to receive the Scheduled Tribe recognition but also to regain the community's identity as Chiru, which we have lost due to the Government's negligence," said Azam Chiru, a primary school teacher at the village.

Early this year a representative body of the Chiru community from the village urged the former Chief Minister of Assam, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and the present MP from Silchar Santosh Mohan Dev to take the issue seriously, but they paid no heed the representative body's request. "We are the people from a tribal community in Assam who have still not been given any recognition," said a gaonbura (headman) of the village.

The Chirus came to Manipur and Cachar district in Barak Valley of Assam almost 50 years ago from Myanmar. Though Manipur has a sizeable Chiru population, in Assam's Cachar district there are just 32Chiru families. These families are now living in abject poverty. There are no proper roads connecting the village with Lakhipur township, no healthcare facilities and no other educational institutions except a primary school. "Besides the recognition problem, these tribal people regularly bear the brunt of the insurgents who storm the village, which is near the Cachar-Manipur border, to snatch domestic fowls," said Sanjoy Das Chowdhury, a post graduate student at Assam University here who extensively visited the Kamranga village.

By SURAJIT TALUKDAR