Indigenous people’s right in 21st century: context of Chakma people of Bangladesh

Human Rights are a universally supported phenomenon that protects the birthrights of every human being despite their differences. However, still, there are certain marginalized groups, whose rights are violated and are unjust. Refugee people are one of such misfortune groups. As human beings, the refugee people claim the right to be accepted, recognized, acknowledged, and involved in society. Human rights are one of the most significant and sensitive topics of this era. Tribal, Refugees, and other deprived parties have started to demand their rights. Refugees have been one of the unfortunate groups of people, who had to work very hard even to live a decent life. The populations of refugee people keep on growing yet the rights of these people are not yet protected, nor are these people given the necessary freedom to rights. Thus more literature and awareness need to be taken place to save such groups of people.


When Chakma issues come into the picture then India also comes into the discussion as in 1960’s the Chakma’s were tenants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and forced to escape as their territory was submerged by the Kaptai dam, the development project of then East Pakistan. Chakmas are Buddhist, Hajongs Hindu — and they additionally confronted religious abuse in East Pakistan. The greater part of the individuals who migrated to India was Chakmas; just around 2,000 were Hajong. They entered India through what was then the Lushai Hills region of Assam (today’s Mizoram). While some remained back with Chakmas effectively living in the Lushai Hills, the Indian government moved a lion’s share of the exiles to present-day Arunachal Pradesh. The situation of Chakma Rights as indigenous in Bangladesh is focused here and also addresses the areas or sectors in which human rights they are derived from. Subaltern studies are getting popularity in recent years and as an ethnic group Chakma’s has some rights but unfortunately, they are not getting their rights properly, although they are the citizens of an independent state.



Chakmas and the Facts:

Chakma is the name of the largest tribe found in the hilly area of eastern Bangladesh known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Their name was first used by British census-takers to describe certain hill people. When the British were driven from India in 1947, the land was partitioned into two nations, Pakistan and India. The general population who lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts locale anticipated that would turn out to be a piece of India. Rather, the locale was given to Pakistan. This brought on hatred in light of the fact that the general populations, for the most part, Chakma, are essentially Buddhist. They saw themselves all the more socially like the Hindu people groups in India than the Muslims of Pakistan.

The fact goes back to 1550 AD, and then the Portuguese mapmaker Lavanha specified the settlement of the Chakmas in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. On the soonest surviving guide of Bengal, he denoted that Chakmas lived in a settlement on the Karnafuli waterway. Researchers have advanced two schools of feeling with respect to the early history of Chakmas. Both accept that they moved from outside to their present country. The most persuading supposition joins Chakmas with focal Myanmar and ARAKAN, and with gatherings, for example, the Sak (Chak, Thek) who live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts and Arakan. The other sentiment, which bands recorded confirmation, accepts that Chakmas moved to the Chittagong slopes from Champaknagar in northern India. In the late eighteenth century, Chakmas were found in the Chittagong Hill Tracts as well as in other bumpy ranges of the present-day regions of Chittagong and Cox’sbazar.

When the British took control of the fields in the mid-eighteenth century, they proceeded with the game plan, and when they added the Chittagong slopes a century later, they made the Chakma Raja in charge of duty accumulation in the focal district of the new ownership. The pilgrim charge framework additionally gave new powers to old functionaries at the nearby level (Talukdar, dewan, Khisa) which came to shape the Chakma nobility. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation of 1900 formalized this framework and furthermore focused on the way that the region, however, directed from Calcutta, was not a general some portion of Bengal. Its managerial framework, arrival rights, and conclusion to outside pioneers all set it apart from whatever remains of Bengal. This status was reconfirmed in the 1930s when the district was announced as an avoided region under the Government of India Act. After decolonization (1947), the Chittagong Hill Tracts were joined into East Pakistan and later (1971) Bangladesh. The unique authoritative status of the Chittagong Hill Tracts was preceded, and the Regulation of 1900 was never unmistakably canceled, regardless of piecemeal changes. Thus, the workplace of the Chakma (and Bohmong and Mong) raja makes due till today.

In 1906, a hydroelectric venture was proposed to be fabricated, utilizing the stream of the water in the Karnafuli waterway. In any case, it was not until the 1950s that the arrangement came to fruition and a huge hydroelectric venture was authorized at Kaptai, a riverside town near Rangamati. At the point when the Kaptai dam was finished in 1960, a major lake shaped in the Karnafuli valley, flooding numerous towns and prompting the immense mass migration (or Bara Parang, as the Chakmas call it). Around 100,000 individuals are thought to have fled the waters, a large portion of the Chakmas. Many settled somewhere else in the region, including held woodland ranges, yet in 1964, several thousand looked for shelter in India.

Pakistan’s two areas were known as East Pakistan (where the Chakma lived) and West Pakistan. In 1971, East Pakistan battled effectively to win autonomy from West Pakistan. East Pakistan then turned into the country of Bangladesh. The Chakma felt similarly as distanced from the Bangladesh government as they had from Pakistan. In 1973, the Shanti Bahini (Peace Force) started to arrange rough assaults against the legislature to attempt to win freedom for the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Guerrillas assaulted government powers and the Bangladeshi Army reacted with assaults on regular citizen tribal people groups. As of the late 1990s, this contention proceeded.


The main issues of Chakma peoples are:

The government’s different policy of Islamisation of CHT region enhances ethnic cleansing as well penetration of Bengali Muslim population to CHT. The reason also includes the Non-implementation of the CHT Accord that was signed between the Government of Bangladesh and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) on 2 December 1997 for a peaceful and political solution of CHT. Different social problems like Systematic land grabbing by government authorities, forest department and military forces, new Bengali Muslim settlers, business companies, influential political leaders and military-civil bureaucrats etc.


Representation in government services and political parties

 As per the 2011 census, the CHT comprises a total area of 5,093 sq. miles with around 1.6 million populations. Among them, the indigenous peoples are around 845 thousand and Bengali Muslim settlers are around 752 thousand. According to CHT Accord regarding the posts of officers of all ranks and employees of different classes in government, semi-government, local government and autonomous bodies of the CHT, appointment priority should be given to the “tribals.” Although Regional Council gave its recommendations to the CHT affairs ministry to take necessary measures to apply the provisions, this has not been implied properly in service rules and regulations.


Political, administrative autonomy

People started a democratic movement for rights to self-determination in the Hill. But the democratic movement of Chakma people turned into an armed struggle when all democratic avenues are closed following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975. After holding decade-long dialogues with the successive governments of General Ershad government (1985-1989), Begum Khaleda Zia-led BNP government (1991-1995), and lastly Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government (1996-1997), the ‘CHT Accord’ was finally signed between the PCJSS and Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government in Dhaka on 2 December 1997. The CHT Accord could conclude the decades-long fierce internal conflicts and paves the way for the peace, development, demilitarization of the region, and opportunities to meaningful engagement and representation of the Chakma people.


Particular benefit in the government services

The government of Bangladesh has been taken some initiatives regarding the employment of Indigenous peoples like Chakma and others. But the percentage is too less only 5% quota is there in the government job and Educational institutions. But the problem is that in the Educational sector they have to enroll on that 5% quota basis.


Violence in Bangladesh from the Islamic fundamentalists

Expansion of Bengali settlement and the failure of full implementation of CHT accord have led to human right violations in CHT area. Failure of proper investigation is also responsible for the violence. The violation includes torture, harassment, arbitrary arrest extrajudicial killings that result in the indigenous Chakma people in an unsecured life.

read the core debate on Rohingya issue in international relations



Chakma peoples are living in South Asia traditionally before the colonial and imperial masters rule the region. Because of their religion and own cultural life they are now regarded as minority groups in Bangladesh. With the presence of the military (Bangladesh) the Chakmas have no freedom of movement. Bangladesh government is providing a special quota for Chakma students at university level education and employment. But still, the government has feared that they might become rebellious and fight against the government. The government should take proper and effective initiatives. As they can start by improving the economic reformation of the states and then the people would not have any fear to lose their own job and property because of Chakmas.



Alma Siddqua Rothi

MSS student, Center for South Asian Studies, Pondicherry University, India.

studied International Relations at Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.

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