Chakma people in Chittagong hill tract
Imagine you have two identities. First you are a citizen of a country and in the same country you are known as tribes. Some people call you tribal because the sole reason is that you came from another country. Chakmas are the ones who have two identities. These people live in the remote corner of Bangladesh such as Sylhet, Rangpur, and Khulna, especially in Chittagong hill tract including three districts Rangamatti, khugrashori, and Bandorban. Even though Chakmas are tribes, they receive significant support from Bangladeshi government. Since I was a child, I have been interested to know more about chakmas. For this reason, I have prepared this research paper to illustrate the point that even though Chakmas are tribes, now they are the real citizens of Bangladesh. In order to understand I will describe chakmas history, first their cosmic culture that consists of language, religion, festivals, and marriage; next their vivid lives styles including household, food, clothing, education, and profession, and finally the extra benefit they receive from Bangladesh government. A quick review over the history of chakma gives us clue about from where, when, and why they came to Bangladesh. As far as I knew that they were not the inhabitants of Bangladesh before sixteen century. Along with Wikipedia’s article named “Chakma people”, Chakmas originated from Tibeto-Burman. They are very near to Himalayas. They came from three main places these are Tibet, Burma, and Arakan. First, they live in “Magadha kingdom”, now it is known as Bihar, in India. Then, they left Bihar and started to live in another state at Arakan, in India. However, in Arakan, in 1546, Chakmas were ruled by a king named Raja Debashis Roy. Once, in 1546 the king of Arakan began battle against the Burmese. At that time the chakma king attacked Arakan, but he was defeated by Arakanese. After that they had no way to live in Arakan, so they moved to Bangladesh. This is the main reason chakmas came to Bangladesh, (“Chakma people”, n.page).But when I searched, I didn’t get did they force by Bangladesh to go back their country. However this piece of information shows that chakmas came from a different background than the original inhabitants of Bangladesh. For this reason, definitely they may have a different culture. Culture is the most effective way to learn about chakmas behavior. Even though chakmas are displaced from their own homeland, they maintain their innovative culture. Chakmas catch their culture like cotopus.They sustain their culture throughout their entire life in Chittagong hill tract. Their vast culture includes language, religion, major festivals, and marriage system. Chakmas as well as Bengalese use their own mother tongue to communicate with each other in their own community. The online news article mentioned that chakma people speak in indo-Aryan language. This language derived from Bengali written language and brumes alphabet, (“Origin of the Chakma”, n.page news article 16 January, 2009). Consistent with Wikipedia’s article “Chakma people”, the Chakmas are also influenced by chittagonian because they have been living in here for many years. Even though they speak in their local language, they have their written form of the language. Its name is Ojhopath, (“Chakma people”, n.page). Alternatively Bengalese speaks in bangle language. Bangle language originated from “Sangiskrita” language. As far as I knew that in bangle there are many words those are derived from Hindi, Farsi, purtigsh, Arabic and English. Nevertheless the language of chakmas is unlike to Bengalese, they are communicating with Bengalese in bangle language as their language is somehow influenced by bangle. The second part of chakmas culture is their religion. Chakmas religion is “Theravada Buddhism”. They are Buddhist. However, at present chakmas are pursued to be Christian by some local Christian missionaries. For that reason, some chakmas are very “resent” about their own religion Buddhism (“Chakma people”, n.page).The other website article named “Chakmas” pointed out that, chakmas believe in “reincarnation”, the word mean rebirth. They also believe in sacrificing animal for God who will help them to be free from diseases. For prayer, chakmas usually go to their village temple and respect their God (“Chakmas”, n.page).If you look at Bengalese, you will notice that there are three major religions such as Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity, but majority of Bengalese are Muslim. Muslim people pray in mosque and women in home. They believe that one day the earth will be devastated by the direction of Allah, and they call the day Kiyamoth, when they have to suffer the consequences of their bad activities. They also believe that after death they have to give answer to Allah about what they did on earth, and then Allah will justify or penalize them according to their deeds. Although chakmas religion different from Islam, since my childhood I haven’t heard about any conflict between chakmas and Bengalese over religion. Keeping in this mind chakmas and Bengalese have their own religious festivals that carry the evidence of their cultural signs. In regardence with Wikipedia’s article “Chakma people”, Biju is the major festival of chakmas. They celebrate Biju every year at the end of Bengali New Year. It starts on 13th April and finish on 15th April. Biju continue on three days. These three days are known as “Phul Biju”, “Mur Biju”,” Gajya pajjya Din”, (“Chakma people”, n.page).In keeping with another website article named “Chakms”, “Buddha Purnima” is also their religious festival. They celebrate Buddha Purnima in the month of May when the moon arises in the sky with its full feature. On this day they wear gorgeous dress and go to temple and put forward light candles, flowers in front of the idol of Buddha (“Chakmas”, n.page). In my view, Bengalese have many cultural festivals. Muslim celebrates “EID” as their main festival. The word EID means happiness. After fasting one month, Muslim celebrates Eid in the first day of month “Shawal”, an Arabic month. The most interesting issue is that the celebration of bangle New Year Pahela banshak and Biju coincide in the same month. Chakmas culture also reflects on their marriage procedures. It is regarded in a website that chakmas marriage accomplishes in a distinctive way. The age of marriage for chakma girls is 15 to 18 and for boys is 20 to 25.It is not essential to give dowry to the bridegroom. The dowry system has decayed for bride. Instead of bride, bridegroom has to provide marriage cost in their home again in bride home. Chakma’s marriages are mostly arrange marriage. Chakma’s parents are responsible to organize their children marriage. Chakmas marriage takes place in bridegroom’s house. They have some rules and regulations before marriage. They must take permission from villagers and village leader before complete the marriage. If they are consent then they start their marriage actions. After that they knot bride and bridegroom white girdle. Then they conclude “Indian Bana” and “Chungulang Puja”. Finally they utter their matrimony “mantras”, it likes promises and finish their wedding ceremony (“The chakma marriage”, n.page). Quite the opposite, Bengalese have to give dowry to the bridegroom. The marriage age for Bengali girls above 18 and for boys above 21. Marriage nature depends on their preference. They have both options, love marriage or arrange marriage. They don’t have follow rules like chakma. At the marriage time their parents and sometimes their relatives present in wedding place to perform the wedding. They must registry their marriage so they call Kagi who is responsible to registry their marriage and then they utter Kabul, means agree to marry. Through this process Muslim Bengalese draw to a close their marriage. From these supporting details it’s clear that chakmas marriages are isolated from the procedure of Bengalese wedding. In my point of view, life style of ethnics is defined by household, food, education and occupation of its people. In Chakmas household, the style of houses and their families are different from Bengalese. House is the most significant element of life for chakmas. It is written in a website that chakmas houses are on the slope of riverside or a steam. They make their houses on the wooden and bamboo platform that is two meters above from the ground (“Chakmas” n.page). In contrast, most of the Bengalese houses are like buildings and situate over plain ground. Not only from the house style but also from family style chakmas are different from Bengalese. Chakmas live in extended family. In their big houses, they have separate single room for living. The most miserable thing about the daughters of the chakmas is that they are deprived of their heritage of property (“Chakma”, n.page). While Bengalese live in nuclear family, Chakmas prefer to live in a large family with all relatives of them. Moreover, fortunately Bengalese daughters have the right in one third in their fathers and half in their mother’s heritage. In order to live, Chakmas do not only need the house and family but also they need food. The traditional food of chakmas is completely different than Bengalese. Chakmas traditional food is cooked in a unique ways. They put species, fish and vegetables into a fragment of bamboo and cook it in low temperature. They cook rotten egg wrapped with banana leaves. They also eat beacon. Besides their traditional is wind (“Chakmas” n.page). In contrast, to chakmas Bengalese have their own traditional food which is water rice and Hilsha fish that we eat in Phahela Baishak, bangle new year. They cook rich in high temperature and keep it in water whole night and fry Hilsha fish. The common and favorable drink is milk and sarvat which is lemonade. Food is not only Chakmas basic need for their lives styles but clothing is as same important as food. Chakmas traditional clothes are different according to the styles and names from Bengalese traditional clothes. “Chakma men traditionally wear dhoti that is like a big longi and short Punjabi like shirt and its front side as well as lower part of right and left is divided” (“The chakma” n. page, article 27 march 2008). Furthermore, it is written in Wikipedia that the name of traditional dress for chakma women is known as phinon and khadi. It is resembled to blouse and skirts. It is very colorful because when they make phinon and khadi, they use special kind of clothes name “Alam”. Alam is colorful clothe that is made by different colored cotton (“Chakma people”.n.page). On the other hand, Bengalese make themselves presentable through their traditional clothes. Bengalese men traditionally wear Punjabi and pajama. Sari is the traditional dress for Bengalese women. Bengalese use ordinary cotton to weave the clothes. It shows that chakmas clothes are different than Bengalese because their lives styles are different from the Bengalese. In order to illuminate chakmas life, they are getting education. There is a proverb that “Education is the backbone of a nation” (unknown). Chakmas firmly believe in this proverb so they seek opportunities to receive education mostly in three languages such as English, Bangla and their mother tongue “Indo Aryan” language as well. Besides chakmas are receiving free primary and secondary education from Bangladesh government. For the reason, the percentage of literacy has increased and now is about 22% for the both men and women (“Chakmas”, n.page). In addition to, their firm belief in education and support of the government. There are some organizations that help them to acquire pre-school education. For example, Brac is an organization that started to provide pre-school education for chakma children in 2001. From this Brac pre-school program about 10000 chakma children have gotten the chance to study in Brac school (“Bangladesh: education: primary school”, n.page). Chakmas serious attention to education, support from government and Brac organization make them eligible for more job opportunities in Bangladesh. Chakmas came out of their boundaries of previous occupation. Now a day they have entered many jobs besides their first occupation agriculture. In previous, they were engaged mostly in farming. For farming they used to clear or burn the forest, and then they planted their crops after ploughing. However, at present besides farming they are also working in industrial projects, markets, and hospitals. They also work in reputable institutions (“Chakmas”, n.page). For instance, Pinky chakma is a woman who works in an international university “Asian university for women”. It shows that chakmas occupation is also changing day after day as they are getting opportunities to work with respect. In this fact Bengalese occupation is similar to chakmas. They are also work in industrial project, factory, and government and nongovernment institutions. As a Bangladeshi all Bengalese are getting many opportunities from the government such as free education from class 1 to class 12, free medical service. Government also established many university, college, medical college, and engineering university. Chakmas are not deprived of those opportunities. It is not my idea; it is the commitment of a chakma woman. As said by a chakma women Papia Tanchangya that they are allow free medical service as same as Bengalese. They receive free education from as well. Bangladesh government has preset seat in medical study section, engineering section, and university section for Chakmas. Consequently, nine chakma students gets admission every from their home districts such as Rangamatti, Bandorban, and Khagrachori. More to the point, 15 students get chance in university and 4 students in BUET means Bangladesh university of Engineering Technology each year. Besides have more possible options to get government job because about 5% seats are predetermined for chakma candidate. Again they have 5% possible seats for B.C.S. Besides chakmas are here in Bangladesh from the period of British rule, they normally got citizenship of Bangladesh. They also have their representative in the national parliament of Bangladesh. The name of their representative is Diponkor Taluckdor. In addition Bir Bahador is the chairmen of Chittagong hill tract development board, (Tanchangya, Papia. "Personal Interview”10 Apr. 2010). These evidences prove them as the real citizens of Bangladesh. And their status is not less than other Bengalese in any sides. To sum up this research I have learnt that Chakmas are really the citizens of Bangladesh. Before starting this research paper I had an idea that Chakmas are isolated from Bengali society but it is not absolutely true because they are working as peers with Bengalese in working fields. They are studying together as well. I had another thought that they lead their life in a malicious way, they have no decent family and proper education. After research it is obvious to me that they have bright standard of living and civilization because they leading their life and performing their cultural acts properly without any problem like other Bengalese. If I had more chances in future, I will research about how chakmas were treated in Bangladesh when they came here and their any conflict with Bangladesh government.
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