People are identified with their surnames. A surname is used to guess who belongs to which caste or religion. But sometimes, these surnames can become a headache for an entire community. That is exactly what is happening with the people of Chutia, a tribe of Assam.
In many Indian Subcultures and communities, the term Chutia is considered derogatory. Hence, the people of this tribe get mocked and now are also being denied the rights of equal opportunities.
Their Surname, derived from their ancestors has a rich heritage. But, the people of this tribe are compelled to change their surnames and hide their ancient pride so as to find employment opportunities.
Recently Priyanka, a resident of Gogamukh city of Guwahati, tried to apply online for a job in a central government firm, National Seed Corporation Limited. She has a master’s degree in agricultural economics and management. Even after trying many times, the software kept rejecting her Surname again and again.
Eventually, her application was not accepted.The software was repeatedly mispronouncing her Surname and was asking not to use slang in place of Surname. After trying many times, when her Surname was not accepted, she expressed her anger on Facebook. Her post went viral. Since then this surname issue has been in the news. The tribe that Priyanka belongs to has a population between 20 and 25 lakhs. People of this community use the surname ‘Chutia’.
The software used for the application considers this word as abusive, so Priyanka could not apply for the job online. The software responded saying her Surname was slang every time she tried.
The Chutia people (spelt as Sutiya;) are an ethnic group originating in the Indian state of Assam. They are part of the Kachari group. The Chutia people, through the Chutia dynasty, formed their kingdom in the present Indian states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and reigned from 1187 to 1673. They are an ethnic group of East Asian and South-East Asian appearance.
The Government of India recognises the Chutia people as Other Backward Classes (OBC). They are an ethnic Assamese-speaking group residing in Upper Assam districts, with a fair percentage of the population in Lower Assam and Barak valley.
The word chu-ti-ya originally came from the Deori’ Chutia’ language, which means people living near pure water. In this, Chu means pure or good, Ti means water and or means residents or people living in that land. In his book, Background of Assamese Culture, RM Nath claims that the word originated from “the tip of the mountain” (which is called chute in their language). These people lived in the mountains before coming to the plains of Upper Assam. This community has a lot of folk songs through which they say that they are descendants of Bhumikka and Subahu Chutan.