A single-judge bench of the Tripura High Court Tuesday asked the administration to take necessary measures to stop the persecution of two tribal Chakma families that converted to Christianity last year.
The two families had approached the high court after purportedly facing discrimination from members of their own tribe. The petitioners said social embargoes placed against them have put their lives and subsistence at stake.
After hearing the petitions, Justice Arindam Lodh asked Chakma customary institutions to stop issuing “unconstitutional” diktats.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, senior advocate Samrat Kar Bhowmik said two writ petitions were filed before the Tripura High Court by Purnomoy Chakma and Tarun Chakma against Uttar Andharcharra Chakma Samajik Bichar Committee in Unakoti district and Kanchancherra Chakma Samajik Adam Panchayat in North Tripura district – both alleged customary Chakma tribal social institutions.
According to the petitioners, they along with their respective families converted to Christianity in West Andharcherra village in Unakoti district in November last year. Soon after that, the two Chakma organisations ‘expelled’ the two families from the community.
Some Chakma social bodies like Uttar Andharcherra Chakma Samajik Bichar Committee said the Christian converts would be accepted back into the community only if they returned to Buddhism.
Purnomoy Chakma, one of the persons who converted, is a daily wager and used to perform unskilled labour under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). He alleged that he has not been given any work since his conversion.
Tarun Chakma, the other petitioner, is an autorickshaw driver. Shortly after he converted to Christianity, the two Chakma organisations allegedly issued orders, asking locals to not take rides in his auto-rickshaw.
In his petition, Tarun Chakma said anyone riding his auto-rickshaw was threatened with a fine of Rs 30,000-Rs 40,000.
Meanwhile, the Christian Chakma families have also alleged that they were being prevented from attending Church services and following the customs of their new religion.
The ‘outcast’ Chakma families had filed a complaint with the Kumarghat sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) on June 26 this year seeking legal action against Chakma customary bodies for allegedly misusing customary laws to persecute them.
The petitioners said despite lodging a complaint to the SDPO, no protection was given to the two families.
On July 7, they submitted a written complaint to the Kumarghat sub-divisional magistrate seeking protection against alleged abuse of power in the name of Chakma customary laws. Their petitions to the High Court say no action has been taken till date either by the civil administration or the police in respect to their complaints.
Talking about the Court’s observations, Senior advocate Samrat Kar Bhowmik said, “The judge was surprised to see such incidents happening in a civilised society. The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion to all citizens. The activities of Chakma social customary bodies in the name of religion are entirely unconstitutional. The judge expressed discontent and issued a strict order to the said customary bodies to stop unconstitutional diktats at the earliest, failing which the administration and the police were asked to take strict steps against them.”
Advocate General Siddhartha Shankar Dey, who represented the State, said the government would make sure such incidents stop at the earliest. The Court has also issued a stay order on the diktats of Chakma customary bodies until further orders.
This correspondent tried to get in touch with the Kanchancherra Chakma Samajik Adam Panchayat but they were unavailable for comments.
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