The Chakmas are simple and peace-loving people. Buddhist by religion, they live in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram in India and Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. They have their own way of life, language, values and culture. They were very highly educated and civilized but misfortune and adverse circumstances made them refugees in their own land.
The partition of India in 1947 was the main cause of the present suffering and problems of Chakma people. Being Buddhist, they wanted to merge with India at the time of partition but their homeland, Chittagong Hill Tracts – now in Bangladesh – was ceded to theocratic Pakistan against their will. That day marks the beginning of their struggle for life and survival.
The Chakmas became the victims of persecution, religious fanaticism and repression. Their arable land was flooded to build a dam – followed by the construction of a power plant – which left the Chakmas homeless, destitute and landless without nominal compensation or rehabilitation. In1964 about 30,000 Chakmas migrated to the then state of Assam – now Arunachal Pradesh – from East Pakistan – now Bangladesh – were they settled and started to rebuild their shattered lives. But after 30 years of peaceful living they found themselves again victims of discrimination.
Early 2005 the Chakma Project gained momentum thanks to the affiliation of the Bodhgaya school to the Sanskrit University that has recognized the school’s diplomas from primary school to university degree. Following affiliation, the Steering Committee of the Alice Project Society decided to change their schools’ profile radically, a decision that was in part a way to denounce the thriving school business which had developed in the area with schools springing up like mushrooms with no guarantee of quality.
As of 2006, the efforts and investments of the Alice Project have been mainly devoted to the construction of a hostel for girls on the Sarnath campus. The aim was to provide education to girls coming from families who live below the poverty line. Also Chakma girls have been granted access to education, a “privilege” so far enjoyed only by males.
The decision to provide help and assistance to the Chakmas falls within the Alice Project’s philosophy whereby no project or reform can be successful if it does not leverage on tradition. A people without memory is doomed.
Chakma people are at very high risk of loosing their cultural identity and values. We want to be by their side when they take up the challenge.
Founded in 2009, a new school was built in Bodhisatta Deban village in Arunachal Pradesh. Today nine teachers offer free education to 94 children from poor families. Twenty students are residents.
At the present time more than one hundred Chakmas students are resident, free of charge, in our three schools.