The Worst Sufferers of Bharat’s Partition: The Fall of the Chakma Tribe

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According to Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory, British India should be divided. Wikimedia Commons


VON-JAYA CHOUDHARY

The division of the Indian subcontinent is one of the most significant events in the recent history of South Asia. The people of Punjab and Bengal were undoubtedly hardest hit by the split. Hence, the fate of the Chakmas and other smaller tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts is noteworthy as it is related to the partition of Bengal. British India should be split according to Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s “two nation theory”, which argues that Hindu dominions should remain in Hindustan while Muslim majority territories should go to Pakistan.

As we know, India gained independence on August 15, 1947 and was divided into two countries: India and East-West Pakistan. In contrast to this notion, however, the Bengal Boundary Commission, headed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, handed the Chittagong Hill Tracts over to Pakistan, which was also a direct violation of the Indian Independence Act of the British Parliament of 1947. On August 15, 1947, which is celebrated as Independence Day, the residents of the Chakma tribe of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) at Rangamati headquarters in the presence of the then Deputy Commissioner, Colonel GL Hyde, hoisted the three-colored national flag, because they believed they were themselves within the Indian domain. They were happy like the rest of India and celebrated this milestone. From August 15-20, 1947, the Indian flag was deployed for six days. The CHTs had a non-Muslim population of 97 percent. However, when the Jawans of the Pakistani Baluch Army unfolded their national flag on August 21, the residents of CHT discovered that they were no longer on Indian territory and that the army had occupied them.

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Sneha Kumar Chakma, a leader of the Chakma, was instrumental in the reunification of the CHT with India as 97 percent of the people were non-Muslims who wish to live with their Indian brothers and sisters. He even stood ready to fight the illegal allocation of CHT to Pakistan and requested military assistance from Sardar Vallabhai Patel, then Indian Deputy Minister of the Interior, and Pandit Nehru to reunite CHT and bring them back to India, bearing in mind the readiness of the people living with India.

Chakma
Instead of independence, they were placed in the hands of the theocratic government of Pakistan. Wikimedia Commons

But neither did he get a positive reaction – the then prime minister jumped up from his chair and fell: “Do you intend to bring India under foreign rule again?” He became desperate because of the prime minister’s hatred, and all non-Muslims eventually became thrown into the jaws of theocratic prescriptions. SK Chakma also returned to CHT with the belief that they could liberate CHT and his people. Even before independence, SK Chakma had presented many memoranda to the leaders of the National Congress, including Pandit Nehru, Hindu Mahashaba, conferences and the Borders Commission to highlight this issue. But despite his repeated representations, they failed to address the problem which Sri Chakma ironically referred to as the “Himalayan Flaw” that killed thousands of Chakmas and non-Muslims. Perhaps Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose, and even Indira Gandhi sympathized with the cause, but SK Chakma’s compassion and efforts were in vain.

The people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are now hardest hit by the division. They do not want to live in a foreign country and cannot live as legal citizens in their home country (India), where they are now recognized as refugees. This is a terrible injustice for the Northeast’s eighth sister, a 97 percent non-Muslim region that did not want to be thrown into Pakistan and for which there was no valid explanation as the region and its people had no history of unrest.

The problems of the Chakmas arose against the background of the partition of India – after the illegal granting of CHT to Pakistan against the will of the people – although they fought for India’s freedom. Instead of independence, they were placed in the hands of the theocratic government of Pakistan. Despite many memoranda and presentations, the problem went unnoticed and ignored, and Chakmas would not have been the worst victims of Radcliffe’s unlawful award if it had been resolved with the help of the Indian authorities before independence.

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However, for administrative reasons, the CHT was designated as an excluded territory by the British under the Government of India Act of 1935, which is why the Indian authorities paid little attention to it. However, you may have put pressure on the UK government on this matter. Any attempt to become a part of India, as well as serious efforts to achieve Indian independence, have been in vain. As a result, as one of the tribes, the Chakmas really suffered most from the partition, especially the granting of CHT to Pakistan, and the Indian government owes such a grave error to the Chakmas and other tribes that it led to their separation from India even though they were not – were Muslim and violated the Indian Independence Act of 1947.

Most Hindus are unaware of the tragedy of the Chakmas, which are obviously among the hardest hit by the split. We occasionally hear from Chakma refugees in India, but there is little discussion of what happens to the remaining Chakmas in Bangladesh. The contribution of the Chittagong revolutionaries, led by Surya Sen, is still recognized in our history books. It is high time we included the struggle of the Chakma people in our discussion and learned from it.



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