The Chakmas and the so called Facebook heroes


Facebook, started in 2003 as FaceMash has evolved as Facebook in 2004 and gone global in 2007-08. Chakmas started to flock together in Facebook in 2009-10. In that time the world was experiencing some unique movements which gathered their strengths from online activism. Arab Spring (December 2010), Occupy Wall Street and Anna Hazare’s movement demanding strong Lokpal Bill (April 2011) also may have direct or indirect influence on the Chakma online activists.

I have joined Facebook on 24th September 2010. Before my joining, the pioneers among the Mizoramme Chakma Facebookians Hemanta Larma and Paritosh Chakma joined FB on February 2009 and February 2010 respectively. Arunachalye Chakmas came much later. Ranjan Chakma joined in June 2012 and Orunjit Changma in January 2013. However, three Chakma Facebookians from Arunachal namely Prahlad Chakma (joined in October 2009), Punya Chakma (March 2010) and Vivekananda Chakma (joined in July 2011) was already there but we could not feel strong presence of Arunachallye Chakmas till the arrival of Ranjan and Orunjit. Bangladeshi Chakmas are also started using FB in the same time. As example, we may mention the name of Odong Chakma (joined in May 2009), Sedampanja Chakma (June 2010) and Radhamon Donpudi (joined in August 2010).

The primary use of FB for us was to disseminate information and thus trying to form public opinion on various developmental issues. Before Hemanta and Paritosh started disseminating information through Chakma Voice in FB , they used to send bulk SMSs to the public named MCDF Fogodang. According to MCDF, at the end of 2010, their Fogodang had 10,000 registered customers. In Tripura, MAADI had also launched a similar programme. But it came to a halt in the end of 2012 when TRAI tightened the rules for sending bulk SMSs. We were publishing a monthly newsletter in that time which were also experiencing numerous problems, distributing the paper in all over the state being the major one. Our MAADI monthly ultimately ceased to be published in the end of 2011. So the only option left for us to disseminate information to public is the Facebook.

We found it very useful to voice our never unheard voices. The mainstream medias never given us importance. So much so that once we organised a demonstration at Agartala demanding introduction of Chakma Scripts in Primary Education system and our procession marched-through in front of the Dainik Sambad office, the largest daily of Tripura. But on the next day, with our sheer astonish we found that Dainik Sambad did not reported our procession. In this situation, when we discovered the Facebook, it is just like a free online newspaper for us having thousands of circulation. We found that if our ground workers acts as Citizen Journalist, we will be getting live telecast of our happenings from all over the Chakma populated areas which is far better than Dainik Sambad. So, we went with it happily.

In Tripura, we are yet to create a productive FB network. Presently, most of our FB users are limiting themselves with unproductive pessimistic views, indulging exhibitionism, highlighting personal activities and gossiping or teasing each-other etc. like village folks do when they meet on the way. We are hardly trying to mold public opinion on a particular issue. Moreover, our ground activists still to realize its possibilities as mass media and record store.

Fortunately, in Mizoram, in spite of all its odds like poor network coverage and famous load shedding, Chakma brothers & sisters could realise a considerable amounts of benefit out of it. Handling of Parava starvation (March-April, 2011), epidemic at Thanzamasora (March-April-2011), derogatory comments on Chakmas by Mizoram CM (May 2011) and case of Lobindra (September 2011) are just a few to mention where FB was used tremendously to mobilize the mass-resources, exerting pressure on the stake holders and to form public opinion in favour of the issue. The credit goes to MCDF/Chakma Voice in general and Paritosh and Hemanta in particular. These all have also delivered a good deal to mature some of our think tanks like Hugi Eswar and Boyeer Changma.

Now, FB has given us a free live newspaper on which everybody is free to express their feelings, anger, ideas so forth and so on. But some of our leaders are trying to censor it. We may recall the famous El Bee Chakma’s case in this regard. El Bee Chakma was allegedly transferred from Kamalanagar to Lungle for participating in a discussion on corruption in CADC in Facebook (July 2012). Hugi Eswar wrote, “ Your people appear to be following Chakma internet users closely and your coterie must be working that extra hour, ready to go that extra mile to set an example by suspending EL BEE Chakma so that no one in the future shall dare to criticise or speak ill of you and your administration and the system you have established in your kingdom. It is so unbelievably comical that you even keep track of social networking sites of Facebook to keep a check on dissenting voices against corruption, policies, governance and administration or the lack of it thereof. By threatening with your big stick as a means to suppress such voices coming from concerned citizens, you are doing me and many others proponents of free speech a big favour. You shall bring your own downfall just this way for it is seen that a person who don’t tolerate others; others also don’t tolerate such person for very long. Thank you in advance for baring before us your limitations as policy makers and decision takers.”

Not only the ruling class, some of our comrades are also discouraging free expression in our only media in times off and on. They reasonably feel disappointed when someone opposes their ideas/actions without a valid reason or comments rude, negative or nonconstructive without showing any better alternatives. But we should remember that, in our eyes, the FB is (of course not withstanding other numerous use of FB) a newspaper of the people, by the people and for the people. So we can not expect a uniform level of intelligence and awareness among all the participants. The thousands of dumb readers/viewers of printing/electronics media are getting the privilege of a reputed journalist and a celebrated commentators here in Facebook, so they are reporting and commentating only at par their level and which is their level best. Here comes the leader who will be able to organise these jumble of voices in to a chorus and use it for the purpose intended.

Some of my friends even mock them terming Facebook Heroes and Armchair Revolutionists. Yes, all of us are not with you on the ground and some of us even refused to go with you showing a bizarre excuse. It is a normal practice for us, because we are the people. But you should not mock us, because you are the leader. But you remember, your actions will be questioned and your silences will also be questioned. Because, we are the base, we are numerous, we are the roots and we feed you. You should also remember that we did not begged you to serve us, you voluntarily came to us for our service, and you did, in turn we loved you and honoured you. So, we have every right to question you in any moment.

June 26, 2014 at 12:51 am

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