GUWAHATI: In a case of alleged racial discrimination, a minister in Mizoram resigned on Monday after four Chakma (tribe) students were denied medical seats despite merit.
They were among Mizoram’s 38 students who had cleared the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2017 and were selected to pursue studies in MBBS and bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) under state quota.
“I fear that my presence as minister of state for fisheries and sericulture in your esteemed ministry may create uneasiness to maintain the glory of democracy of our state where all of us should feel at home under your dynamic leadership, irrespective of caste, creed and religion,” said 44-year-old BD Chakma, the only Chakma community member in chief minister Lal Thanhawla’s ministry, wrote in his resignation letter.
Quoting a recent press statement of the state’s higher and technical education minister, R Romawia, Chakma also wrote, “It is clear that he is not going to give any MBBS seat to non-Zo (Mizo) ethnic students and it indicates a clear denial of seats to those four meritorious students and this is not acceptable by me”.
He told the New Indian Express that his resignation letter was accepted by the deputy secretary to the chief minister and he was awaiting a decision.
Based on their ranks of 4, 9, 17 and 23, 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 Nibir Tongchangya in Raipur’s JLNM Medical College. Nibir Chakma and Nibir Tongchangya are from Tuichawng, Chakma’s constituency in Lunglei district.
The seats under the Mizoram quota are allotted by the Union ministry of health and family welfare under the Central quota pool as the state does not have a medical college.
The four students were denied seats in the wake of protests by students’ body Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP). The MZP demanded seats be allotted to only the Zo-ethnic group (Mizos), who form over 85 per cent of Mizoram’s population.
On July 20, the four students were called for counselling, including verification of documents and fee payment, by the higher and technical education department in Aizawl amid protests by MZP activists. But after completing the formalities, the whole process was cancelled the same day by the department as thw MZP called for an indefinite Mizoram bandh from the next day in protest.
Under pressure, officials negotiated with the MZP and struck a deal which made the students’ body call off the stir. It was agreed that “no Chakma students would be admitted in medical colleges under Mizoram quota”.
The Chakmas, who migrated from Bangladesh, are viewed as non-locals. The MZP argues that the Chakmas cannot be put under Category 1 of the Mizoram Technical Entrance Examination Rules. It alleged that officials in the past had committed “a blunder by including Chakmas in this category.”
The All India Chakma Students’ Union (AICSU) has condemned the “cancellation of MBBS seats to the four indigenous Chakma students”.
“The Mizoram government must encourage merit, not communalism,” AICSU president Dilip Kanti Chakma said.
In 2015, Mizoram’s higher and technical education department had amended rules to include “Zo-ethnic people who are native inhabitants” in Category 1 in the state’s selection criteria for college admissions.
However, the Mizoram Chakma Students’ Union challenged the decision in the Gauhati High Court and it stayed the new rules.