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ORIGIN:

 

The Chakma tribal community forms part of the great Tibeto-Burman language family. Regrettably, there is no authentic record of the origin of the Chakmas.

 

(More to be added)

 

PARTITION OF INDIA: INJUSTICE DONE TO THE CHAKMAS

 

During Partition (August 1947), India was divided on the religious line. Muslim-majority areas went to form Pakistan. Surprisingly, Chakma-dominated Chittagong Hill Tracts of present day Bangladesh formed part of Pakistan even though Muslims were only meager 2 %. The Partition axed the Chakma life. It was the doom day.

 

The Chakmas have been patriots. They fought against the British, and did not allow the conquerors to conquer them. Following the Partition, they were celebrating the Independence Day on 15 August 1947 by unfurling the Indian tricolour in Rangamati, the main town of CHT. It was pity that they did not even know they were already Pakistanis, much against their own will. The Pakistani troops pull down the Indian flag.

 

The Chakmas could not give a united stand against the injustice done. Indian government remained mum. It did not recognize the Chakmas’ contributions and sacrifices during the freedom movement. It did not respect the Chakmas’ aspirations and dreams. The Indian leaders forsook the innocent, peace-loving Chakmas to the wolves.  

 

PERSECUTION UNDER PAKISTAN AND BANGLADESH RULE

 

Given the communal division between India and Pakistan, that the Buddhist Chakmas would be persecuted in Muslim Pakistan was a foregone conclusion. Chakmas were brutally killed, tortured, attacked and their women folk raped under the Pakistan rule. In 1964, the Kaptai Dam reservoir was built that submerged around 44% of the CHT’s agricultural lands and made tens of thousand Chakmas homeless and foodless. Those displaced were neither rehabilitated nor compensated nor treated well. Thousands became IDPs and refugees.

 

In 1971, Bangladesh was liberated with India’s help. But that did not bring any change in the policy of the Muslim government towards the Chakmas. With active participation of the Bangladesh military, the Chakmas were attacked, massacred, kidnapped, and raped and their houses burned. There was no reprieve. Life was no longer livable. Hundreds fled from their homes to escape from attempts at their lives.  

 

FROM RULERS TO REFUGEES

 

The Rulers have turned into Refugees, courtesy the brutal policies of the successive governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh. In 1964, around 30,000 indigenous Chakmas displaced by the Kaptai Hydro-Electric dam in CHT of then East Pakistan migrated to India. They were given settlement by the government of India in the North Eastern Frontier Agency (NEFA), the present Arunachal Pradesh, after consultation with the local tribal chiefs. While being shifted to the NEFA, Government of India issued valid migration certificates to the migrants and assured them of citizenship rights in due course.

 

“They came in a hopeless, pathetic condition, just with the clothes that they wore” recalls one senior Mizoram official, who was part of the Assam government team that received the Chakma in the Cachar and Lushai hills.

 

PRESENT CRISIS

 

ARUNACHAL PRADESH:

 

There are presently about 65,000 Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh. All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union has been leading a hate-campaign against the Chakmas and inciting the otherwise sympathetic local population to drive the Chakmas away from the state. Political parties exploit the Chakma issue for electoral gains. They have been denied basic rights, including ration, education, employment and the right to live and peaceful life with dignity.

 

The Chakmas under the able leadership of Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh (CCRCAP) have been fighting for rights, and achieved some success. But it is a tough task fighting the racist state structure.

 

On 9 January 1996, Supreme Court of India directed, inter alia, that the life and personal liberty of each and every Chakma residing within the State shall be protected and that, except in accordance with law the Chakmas shall not be evicted from their homes. (Access SC’s judgment here http://www.aitpn.org/StatelessIPs/SCjudgement.pdf) National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India had moved the Supreme Court.

 

The Delhi High Court in its judgment of 28 September 2000 (CPR no. 886 of 2000) directed the authorities to enroll all eligible Chakma and Hajong voters into the electoral rolls. (Read the judgment here: http://www.aitpn.org/StatelessIPs/DelhiHCjudgement.pdf)

 

But the State Government and its agencies including the State Election Commission have been bias and discriminatory towards the Chakmas. The question is “how long”?

 

MIZORAM:

 

There are about 100,000 Chakmas in Mizoram. They gained the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in 1972, which is still resented by the Mizo political leaders. But the District Council covers only one-third of the Chakma population in the state. The Chakmas living outside the District Council (including Sajek Valley area) are subject to regular harassment and discrimination by the State government in various forms.

 

Life is no less painful in Sajek area of Mizoram. The Chakmas have been living in acute poverty and without access to basic healthcare, education and infrastructure such as roads, electricity connectivity.   

 

Most Chakma household is engaged in traditional Jhum cultivation. As forest cover is diminished and production scanty, another name for life has become “struggle for survival”. Due to hate-campaign being carried out by powerful non-state actors such Young Mizo Association, rights of the Chakma people are under threat. Hundreds have already been deleted from voters list arbitrarily. 

 

SITUATION OF CHAKMAS IN BANGLADESH

 

The Chakmas have been reduced to minority in their own homeland due to illegal implantation of thousands of plains settlers i.e. Muslims. Although a peace accord was signed between the Chakma rebels and the Government of Bangladesh in 1997, peace and development have been elusive in the Chittagong hills. Besides persecution by the Bangladesh government, the Chakmas themselves are divided into two main groups and killing each other.

 

 

For latest news on the Chakmas go to FOTC's Newsletter.

 

 

 

 

More on CHAKMAS

This has been taken in parts from the article "Will the Chakmas survive in Mizoram?" written by Paritosh Chakma. This will provide a clear picture on the history of the Chakmas and the reasons for their misfortune in their own homeland.




Part I

How Chakmas lost a ‘homeland’:

Firstly, let me give a brief account of the modern history of the Chakmas. Let me begin by saying that Chakmas were proud citizens of undivided India. Their kings and queens fought against the Mughal invaders and the British Raj to protect the sanctity of their territory and for that matter, to protect India’s freedom and honour.

It is important to go back to history because had Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) been made a part of India in August 1947, as demanded by the Chakmas, their situation would have been completely different now. CHT would have been one of the biggest states of India and the Chakmas would have ruled their own destiny by themselves. But that did not happen, however.

During the 1947 Partition their homeland - the Chittagong Hill Tracts - was in the cruelest manner “awarded” to Pakistan although the Chakma and other ethnic tribes constituted 97% of the CHT's population. Muslims were only 3%. Chakma leaders passionately appealed to the India leaders and before the Bengal Boundary Commission headed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British judge, to remain with India. Radcliffe did not hear them. Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy, cheated them. And, great leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Mahatma Gandhi did not keep their words. Sneha Kumar Chakma being a co-opted member in the Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than Assam) Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly of India did not help much.

There is enough evidence to establish that Radcliffe submitted his report to Mountbatten on 12 August 1947, but Mountbatten was ill-advised that if the Congress leaders come to know CHT has been allotted to Pakistan they would launch vehement protests and the grand ceremony of India’s freedom on 15 August 1947 would be in disarray. So Mountbatten concealed the Radcliffe Award to himself and his close confidants like V P Menon, his Reforms Commissioner. In fact, if Mountbatten is to be believed, it was V P Menon who suggested him against making public the Radcliffe's report before Partition. Thus, India and Pakistan celebrated their independence without knowing their national territories. On the dawn of 15 August 1947, like any other free Indians, the Chakmas too celebrated their freedom by unfurling the Indian tricolour at Rangamati (now in Bangladesh). The Marmas, the second largest ethnic group in CHT, raised the Burmese flag at Bandarban on the same day.

The Chakmas’ celebration of India’s independence was official. On the midnight of 14 and 15 August 1947, about then thousand people marched to the residence of the Deputy Commissioner Col. G.L. Hyde at Rangamati. The Deputy Commissioner gave them a warm reception.

"Sir, is not India independent now"?
"Yes, you are independent now and on".

"Is not, Sir, CHT a part of India under the Independence Act of
India"?

"Yes, according to the Independence Act of India 1947
Chittagong Hill Tracts is a territory of Indian dominion".

"So, should we not hoist our national flag"?

"Yes, but we the British people generally hoist flags at sunrise. Please come at dawn and hoist the Indian national flag publicly in the football ground, and I will go and salute it. Thereafter I shall flourish the Indian flag in my office and residence where I invite you all. Please come here to attend my flag hoisting ceremony."

At sunrise on 15th August 1947, Sneha Kumar Chakma hoisted the Indian tricolor at an official function graced by the Deputy Commissioner Col. G.L. Hyde at Rangamati. Congratulatory messages were sent out and Chakmas and other tribal people celebrated their freedom. They were not given to know that they had been dumped to Pakistan much against their own will and aspirations.

After the bonhomie was over, Lord Mountbatten placed the Radcliffe Award and announcement was made on the All India Radio on 17 August 1947. The Chakmas and other ethnic tribes were struck by lightning to hear the news. On 21 August 1947, the Pakistan Army marched to Rangamati and pulled down the Indian flag and hoisted the Pakistani flag. Crackdown against Chakma leaders was launched. Chakma leaders convened emergency meeting and resolved to oppose the Radcliffe Award tooth and nail and to provide armed resistance if necessary. Sneha Kumar Chakma escaped to India and sought help from Patel and Nehru. Patel was willing to provide even military assistance but he said he was only “deputy” to Prime Minister Nehru.

It took Sneha Kumar Chakma fifty days to get an appointment with Prime Minister Nehru in his office in Delhi. He told Pandit Nehru that the people of CHT were ready to resist the “award” of CHT to Pakistan - they were ready to fight and India must help them. But the great Nehru forgot his promise and backed out. Perhaps, for him, as was for Mountbatten, the future of the indigenous peoples of CHT, was a “small” issue. In the words of Sneha Kumar Chakma, Nehru got up in anger and shouted – “Do you propose to bring India again under foreign rule?”[1]

Part II

Persecution under Pakistani Rule

As the CHT was unjustly “awarded” to Pakistan by Radcliffe’s Award, the Pandora’s Box opened and it has been an unending saga of sufferings for the Chakmas and other ethnic groups of CHT. Of a dozen of ethnic tribal groups living in CHT, the Buddhist Chakmas are numerically dominant and hence their sufferings are more visible. The other ethnic groups in CHT are Marma, Tripura, Tonchungya, Chak, Pankho, Mru, Murung, Bawm, Lushai, Khyang, and Khumi.

The CHT’s indigenous peoples had no faith in Pakistan’s secularism although Muslim League leaders assured that minorities would be protected. Days after the Partition, a large group of Chakmas crossed over into India fearing for their lives in Pakistan.

Under the British rule, CHT enjoyed relative “sovereignty” as the British role was mainly limited to collection of annual tax in cotton or in cash. In the words of Mr. Halbed, Commissioner of Chittagong (1829): “The hill tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are not British subjects, but merely tributaries, and we have no rights on our part to interfere with their internal arrangements”. In 1900, the British enacted the CHT Regulation Act 1900 (popularly known as the CHT Manual) to declare CHT as a “special area”. Subsequently, the Government of India Act 1935 designated the CHT as a “Totally Excluded Area” and restricted settlement of peoples from outside of the region.[2]

The first Constitution of Pakistan (1956) recognized the CHT region as “special area”. But in 1964, its special autonomous status was revoked and the region was opened up to economic exploitation. The influx of Bengali settlers formed a part of State Policy.

Most of the years of Pakistan’s independence up to 1971 (when Bangladesh was liberated) were spent under Martial Law where there was no rule of law. The rights of the indigenous peoples of CHT was severely curtailed and violated. They had no democratic space to raise their legitimate concerns.

In 1962, a large hydro-electric dam known as Kaptai dam was built over Karnaphuli river near Rangamati which submerged 40% of CHT’s agricultural lands belonging to the indigenous peoples. At least 54,000 acres of settled cultivable land, mostly belonging to Chakma farmers were lost in 1957 when the government acquired land for the construction of the dam. Some 18,000 families consisting of about 100,000 people lost their homes and prime agricultural lands. Of them, over 40,000 Chakma tribals crossed the border into India. The Chakmas call this event “Bor Parang” (the great exodus).[3] About 60,000 Chakmas and Hajongs are presently seeking citizenship rights in Arunachal Pradesh in India where they had been settled by the government of India after they fled East Pakistan.

Part III:

Chakmas under Bangladesh regime: Attempts at annihilation

This section provides a brief note on the situation of the Chakmas in Bangladesh, which emerged as a sovereign country, with India’s direct help, in 1971 following a nine month liberation war.

After the withdrawal of Pakistani army the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Forces of Bangladesh) began to unleash terror on the indigenous Jummas[4] in CHT. On 15 February 1972, a delegation of the Jumma people led by M.N. Larma (Chakma) submitted a four-point charter of demand[5] to Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman which were rejected outright. The Jummas under the leadership of Mr Larma launched a political outfit, the Parbattya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (Chittagong Hill Tribal People's Coordination Association) to protest oppression and later waged a guerilla war against the state since mid-1970s to demand the right to self-determination. The Bangladesh regime responded with bullets, massacres; and in particular, used rape of indigenous women as a weapon of war. Since 1980 there have been 13 major massacres of the Jummas by the Bangladeshi settlers and the Bangladeshi security personnel. These are: Kaukhali-Kalampati Massacre of 25 March 1980 (300 Jummas killed), Banraibari-Beltali-Belchari Massacre of 26 June 1981 (hundreds killed), Telafang-Ashalong-Tabalchari Massacre of 19 September 1981 (hundreds killed), Golakpatimachara-Machyachara-Tarabanchari Massacre of June-August 1983 (800 Jummas killed), Bhusanchara Massacre of 31 May 1984 (at least 400 Jummas were killed and many women were gang raped), Panchari Massacre of 1 May 1986, Matiranga Massacre of May 1986 (at least 70 Jummas killed), Comillatilla, Taindong Massacre of 18-19 May 1986, Hirarchar, Sarbotali, Khagrachari, Pablakhali Massacres of 8-10 August, 1988, Langadu Massacre of 4 May 1989 (40 Jummas killed), Malya Massacre of 2 February 1992 (30 Jummas killed), Logang Massacre of 10 April 1992 (400 Jummas killed) and Naniachar Massacre of 17 November 1993 (about 100 Jummas killed).[6] No one was ever prosecuted for any of these acts of genocide.

The root of the CHTs crisis lies in the policies of the government of Bangladesh which seek to establish homogenous Bengali Muslim society. Hence, the response of Prime Minister Mujibur Rahman to Chakmas’ demand for autonomy was - “If you wish to stay in Bangladesh forget your ethnic identity and live as a Bengali”. This implies the destruction of the identity of the indigenous Jumma peoples. The successive governments at Dhaka stuck to this policy throughout. Since late 1970s, the government of Bangladesh sponsored a migration of plain Muslim setters into CHT in blatant violation of the CHT Regulation, 1900 for political purpose. Between 1978 and 1984, the government of Bangladesh reportedly transferred half a million poor Bangaldeshi settlers to CHT and provided them free ration, housing, protection and assistance to grab indigenous peoples’ lands to sustain the conflict and to annihilate the indigenous peoples.[7] Today, as a result of the aggressive settlement policy, the Chittagong Hill Tracts has a population which is almost evenly divided between Muslim homesteaders and the indigenous Jummas. As per the 1991 census, out of total 9,74,447 population of CHT, 5,01,114 were tribals (51.4%) and 47,3333 non-tribals i.e. Bengali Muslims (48.5%)![8] In 1947, the non-tribals constitued only about 3% in the CHT.

On 2 December 1997, the government of Bangladesh and the Jummas signed the CHT Peace Accord which ended the tribal insurgency, but the Bangladesh government has refused to fully implement the Peace Accord. For example, thousands of refugees who returned from India as per the agreement have not been resettled. In short, Bangladesh's policy towards the indigenous peoples is: "We want the land but not the indigenous peoples". The attacks continued with impunity. On 20 April 2008, hundreds of illegal plain settlers backed by Bangladesh army attacked seven indigenous Jumma villages and burnt down at least 77 houses of indigenous Jumma peoples and a church and two UNICEF run schools in Sajek area under Rangamati district (see a report:http://www.aitpn.org/Reports/Bangladesh-Sajek.pdf). The situation of the indigenous Jummas remains precarious.

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