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Thursday, December 27, 2012



Abid Bahar

François Bernier said "Bangladesh has a hundred gates open for entrance but not one for departure." Historically speaking, the tribes of Chittagong Hill Tracts migrated from Arakan to Chittagong Hill Tracts to escape repeated Burmese invasions of Arakan. However, the tribals claim themselves as the indigenous people of Chittagong. It is recorded that there had been archeological sites of ancient Bengali settlements long before the tribes settled in the CHT. Unlike the Rohingya of Burma going through genocide in Arakan, having no citizenship status, the tribes of Bangladesh are rightfully the equal citizens of Bangladesh.

 The problem of tribal unrest seems to have started by the construction of the Kaptai dam in the CHT which led to the loss of tribal land. This was accelerated by Indian inspiration to the tribes to arm themselves and fight for an independent "Jumma land." Intelligence report shows that "tribal rebels from Bangladesh and Myanmar's notorious Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) have agreed to wage a joint campaign against their governments to press for political autonomy (Reuters, 08/23/95)." There is this armed Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) works in Bandarban near the Bangladesh border with Burma.


1666 The Chittagong region was reconquered from the Rakhine Moghs by Shaista Khan, the Moghal Governor of Bengal.
15 Oct 1760 Mir Kashim, the Nawab of Bengal, ceded the rule of the whole Chittagong including the CHT to the British East India Company.

1785 The British established the full control on the CHT.

1860 The British colonial administration annexed the CHT area and named it the Chittagong Hill Tracts by Act XXII. The headquarter was established at Chandraghona.

On 1 April 1900, the South and the North Lushai Hills (then a part of Chittagong Hill Tracts) were merged to form a district of Assam province with headquarters at Aizawl. Lushai hills are now the present day Mizoram state of India. Link:

1964 The special status of the CHT as a tribal area was completely repealed in the constitution.

1971 Two prominent CHT figures, the Chakma Raja and the brother of the Bohmong Raja, sided with Pakistan in the War of Liberation.

1972 A Hill people's delegation led by Manobendra Narayan Larma met with Shaikh Mujibur Rahman to demand a constitutional guarantee of the Hill people's special rights and status. This meeting was a failure: all demands were summarily dismissed.

1976-86 Demographic landscape changes in the CHT region; makes the region's tribal peoples into minority
29 April 1986 The SB attacked several army camps and Bengali areas.

17 Sep 1992 The European countries asked the government of Bangladesh to withdraw from the Hill areas

23 Aug 1995 According to intelligence sources, tribal rebels from Bangladesh and Myanmar's Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) have agreed to wage a joint campaign against their governments to press for political autonomy (Reuters, 08/23/95).

2 Dec 1997 Representatives of the parliamentary national committee and Shanti Bahini leader Jyotindra Bodhipriyo Larma formally sign the peace accord. The agreement provides for broad autonomous powers to administer the three hill districts of Rangamati, Khagrachari, and Bandarban, an area of around 14,000 sq. km. The BNP and 7 other opposition parties hold 4 days of protests and strikes to oppose the accord (Agence France Presse, 12/03/97)

22 Dec 1997 The government formally ratifies the peace accord CHT Regional Council Act (Act XXII)-Establishment of CHT Regional council to coordinate and supervise the activities of the three Hill District Councils . CHT District Councils Act (Act XIX, XX, XXI) and Amendments CHT empowered with more transfer subjects

2000 Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs established through the amendment of the applicable rules of business, transferring power from a Special Affairs Division of the Prime Minister's Office (Cabinet Division notification) The UPDF renews its call for dialogue with PCJSS. UPDF pledges full support to the JSS endeavour to have the Accord fully implemented in return for cessation of armed offensive against its members and supporters.

21 Dec 2000 "The Ministry of CHT Affairs served a notification No. 62/99-587 empowering the Deputy Commissioners of the three hill districts in the CHTs to issue "permanent resident certificate" to the illegal plain settlers.

July 2009 "Government decides to withdraw one brigade, 35 temporary army camps by Sept; 200 camps already withdrawn in phases as per the 1997 peace accord."

April 2010 "The High Court declared Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council Act, 1998 illegal but ruled that the peace accord was legal. The HC bench of Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury passed the order upon two writ petitions filed by Badiuzzaman, a Bengali settler in and Tajul Islam, a lawyer."

   It seems clear that Sheikh Hasina was lured by certain quarters to sign the CHT accord so as to become eligible for the Noble Peace Prize. She was disappointed that instead of her, Dr. Yonus received the Prize.  However, she was awarded UNESCO's Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize for 1998 signing of the accord.  To many Bangladeshis this was her sacrificing the national sovereignty for her personal gains.

"After her election, members of the Jatiyo Sanghsad (National Parliament) exclaimed that the Prime Minister should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her career wide efforts. Lawmaker Zunaid Ahmed Palak said"

Historically speaking, while asking for an independent "Jumaland" none of the tribes had any written language and didn't have alphabets. However, their romancing with revolution, there has been the other interesting recent developments quietly taking place in Chittagong Hill Tracts. To show their growing assertiveness as a distinctive people, lately they have adopted new alphabets and introduced the letters to their children. In imitation of the Indian Tripura alphabets, recently, Tripura alphabets were introduced to the Tipura tribal children of Chittagong Hill Tracts. The ceremony was conducted in Khagrachari. In addition to this, the Chakmas adapted Khamer (Cambodian script) and the Moghs adopted Arakani script (Marma alphabet). These are new developments quietly initiated mainly by the radical leadership among the tribes.

Lately, some Chakmas in imitation of the Burmese pronunciation even seem to style themselves as "Changma," not the traditional name Chakma. A small tribe of the Hill Tracts known as the Tanchingyas about 2000 in number is not behind these developments. Lately, its leaders have changed their name from the official Tanchingya (a Bengali given name to this tribe when arrived from Arakan, the Tanchingyas to now "Tanga." They generally live in houses built on "tall stilts" (Chungs). The name "Tong-Chang-Gya, is similar to the Ro-hin- Gya, (Mro-haung-gya) meaning refugees from Mrohaung of Arakan. The name Tanchingya, now "Tang- ya," are the new letters borrowed from the Burmese language dictionary.

The other developments are in the direction of changing the ancient Chittagonian Bengali Hill Tracts names into Burmese sounding names; Khagrachari is now called by the tribals as "Chengmi," Rangamati for "Gongkabor" and Bandarban for "Arvumi." These changes have been done in imitation of Thai and Burmese names and in the pretext of practicing their right to a "limited autonomy."

The name of places in remote Chittagong Hill Tracts such as Bor kol = Borkol, Ghagra Chori =Khagrachori, Ranga mati= Rangamati, Bandor bon=Bandarbon, Ram gor= Ramgor, Theker (difficult) Pahar (mountain), Dum Dummia Bazar etc in the remote areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts are neither Arakani, nor Burmese nor even Cambodian names. These are Bengali names given by Bengali people that lived in the Hill Tracts before the tribes arrived. Historical records show that Bengali people have been in Chittagong Hill Tracts for over 4,000 years.

In their outward looking identity formation, the above trend of Changing Bengali names shows that the tribals are depriving its native Chittagonians their rights and they are neither integrating nor assimilating as Bangladeshis. They seem to be imitating the culture of the countries from where their ancestors were driven out centuries ago. Analysts claim that this trend could be a result of extremists among the tribals who distaste anything "Bengali" or "Muslim."

 In Arakan of Burma, Rakhine Moghs call the Rohingya as the  "illegal settler Bengalis." Tribals of Chittagong Hill Tracts use similar terminology and involved in armed struggle to drive out the Bengali Muslims from their own country in Chittagong Hill Tracts districts. Strange though, the 1991 census records Bengalis to constitute 48.5% of the population of Chittagong Hill Tracts. It seems that the tribals in CHT like the Rakhine Moghs in Arakan to the Rohingyas want to drive out the Bengalis from CHT. Strange but true (watch the video:
A Rohingya Muslim says: "I have to collect grass and plants to sell and eat fill my empty stomach" Read more ~

The population of CHT in 1991 census account was 50% Bengalis (45% Muslims) and 50% the various other 11 tribal groups of racially Mongoloid origin. The population size of the tribals and Bengalis combined together is close to a million. The tribal groups are Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Mro, Lushai, Khumi, Chak, Khyang, Bawm and Pankhua. According to the Census of 1991, the total population of Chakma was 239,417, it is the largest, the most privileged among the tribal groups.

Surprisingly, Hasina obstructs Rohingya Muslims entering Bangladesh to take shelter and Rohingyas in Arakan concentration camp eat grass, or are dying of starvation, while tribal in Chittagong Hill Tracts demand for autonomy to a dream to having a separate country called "Juma Land." Only lately, Hasina government quietly granted the tribal groups 1998 accord the control over the local government, depriving the huge Bengali population lose their citizenship rights and leading perhaps to a road to Hasina's disaster for Bangladesh.


Adapted from Delwar Hossain and Sahana Ghosh





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