ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Persecution of Chakmas

The reading of “Structural Roots of Violence in the Chittagong Hills Tracts” by Bhumitra Chakma (20 March 2010) saddened me. Ironically, it was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh, who denied autonomy to Chakmas, while he himself demanded full freedom for ethnic Bengalis. The official policy of changing the demographic character of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is akin to that of Israel and Sri Lanka. While Israel had settled Israelis in Palestine to dilute the concentration of Arabs, Sri Lanka tried to convert the Tamil-dominated areas in Sri Lankan majority ones. Multiculturalism is being abandoned as a state policy of Bangladesh.

The Chakmas (also known as Changmas) are proud of their ethnic, religious, and cultural identities. Ethnically, they are Tibetan-Burman, and are closely related to tribes in the foothills of the Himalayas. Their ancestors came from Magadha (now Bihar) to settle in Arakan (in Myanmar) and later most of them moved to Cox’s Bazar (Chittagong) and finally to the CHT. The vast majority of Chakmas are followers of Theravada Buddhism. Their language is known as Changama Vaj (or Changma Kodha) and is written in its own script Ojhopath. The Chakmas are a people with their own culture, folklore and theatre traditions. Historically, they were the rulers of CHT under the control of kings. Today, however, the power of the Chakma King Raja Debashish Roy is merely symbolic.

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