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The evolution of the Chakma Autonomous District Council (C.A.D.C.) can be regarded as the opening of political Pandora box in the political situation of Mizoram. The issue has been propagated in different dimensions by certain political parties, civil societies and even the law-makers. The issue has been so tense and problematic because Chakmas are regarded as outsiders but Autonomous District Council has been created for the so-called outsiders with the trifurcation of the Pawi-Lakher Regional Council (P.L.R.C.) in 1972. It is an undeniable fact to admit that the original home of the Chakmas is Chittagong in Bangladesh and Chakma kingdom also flourished there since pre-British period. Chakmas appeared for the first time in Lushai Hills when the British authority engaged some Chakmas as Labour Corps with the permission of Chakma Queen, Kalindi Rani in the Lushai Expedition of 1871-1872, however, those Chakmas returned to Chittagong after the expedition. Thus, the Chakmas’ official association with Lushai Hills began in 1892 because of the transfer of some Chakma villages nearby Dimagiri from Chittagong administration to South Lushai Hills by the order of Sir Charles Elliot, Lieutenant Governor of Bengal but those Chakmas who were allowed to settle in South Lushai Hills were charged foreigner tax of Rupees Five per year. During that time, Chakma settlement was not found in Uiphum Tlangdung (Present CADC area) because Uiphum Tlangdung was the ancestral land of the Tlanglau and they ruled over the whole hill tracts. Other than the Tlanglau chiefs, there were also some chiefs from Bawm and Pang in the area. The geographical area of the present C.A.D.C. area was administered by the Tlanglau, Bawm and Pang chiefs since pre-British period and was known as Uiphum Tlangdung which means Uiphum Hill Range. The first Chakma migration in the Uiphum Tlangdung was recognized in 1905 and they were employed in the paddy field as workers by the Tlanglau chiefs. Chakma ’s population and influx from across the border increased at faster rate which led to the domination of the present C.A.D.C. area by the Chakmas. As a matter of fact, the Chakma Regional Council later on the Chakma Autonomous District Council (C.A.D.C.) surprisingly emerged as a result of the trifurcation of the Pawi-Lakher Regional Council (PLRC) in 1972 along with the creation and declaration of the Union Territory of Mizoram.

2. Status of the Chakmas in pre-independent era

 

The status of the Chakmas in pre-independent era shall be traced as given below Pre-British period - There are different views about the historical origin, ethnic identity and migratory route of the Chakmas. Despite the divergent views about the historical origin, it can unequivocally be stated that the Chakmas are a community professing Buddhism and inhabiting the remote hilly areas in North East India, namely, Tripura, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram; the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh and Arakan in Myanmar (Burma). Many writers are of the opinion that the Chakmas are of Arakanese origin. They immigrated into Chhitagong where they intermarried with the Bengalees and their language is consequently influenced by Bengalee. However, R.H.S. Hutchinson held the view that the Chakmas belong to eastern group of Indian Aryan family. “Chakma is the offspring of the marriage between the soldier of Nawab Shaista Khan, Governor of Lower Bengal and the hill woman, but this theory is flatly denied by the Chakmas”. There are also divergent views about the racial group of the Chakmas, such as, Mongoloid race, Tibeto Burman race, Tai Ahom group, Mon-Khmer group and Sakya race. Dr F. Lianchhinga does not believe the chakmas to be from Tibeto-Burman group.. He further stated that the ethnic stock who are believed to be close to the Chakmas are Asek/Asak tribe of Upper Myanmar, Tsek/Tsak tribe of Arakan, Tai, Cambodians and Vietnamese. And, due to their long association with the Bengalis, they are influenced by the Bengalee culture and language which subsequently led to the emergence of Bengali related language, he further said. The tribes of Chittagong Hill Tracts (C.H.T.) are classified into two groups, such as, Khyoungtha and Toungtha. Khyoungtha signified those tribes who live near the river and Toungtha signified those tribes who live in the thick jungle in the hills. Tribes who were classified as Khyoungtha were Tipperahs or Mroongs, Kumis or Kweymees, Mroos, Khyengs and Chukmas (Chakmas). The first legendary king of the Chakma was believed to be Raja Bijoygiri but clear cut years of his reign was not recorded. The first recorded king of the Chakma was Jabbar Khan who ruled from 1686 to 1705. The adoption of ‘Khan’ title by the Chakma kings seemed to disturb and surprise every one because the Chakmas are never converted to Muslim. In fact, the adoption of Khan title was believed to be the tactical policy of the Chakma king to get favour from the powerful Muslim rulers of the time. The title ‘Khan’ means the head of a tribal group of people similar to Chengis Khan in China

British period- The Chakma kingdom status quo functioning began to be disturbed with the entry of the British Administration in Chittagong. The British colonization of the Chakma settlement started during the reign of Kalindi Rani in 1860. The status of Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) as hill cultivation tract with slash and burning of forest continued even after the British took over the administration from the Mughal. In 1860, the Chakma kingdom was divided into two administrative units by the British Administration for its own administrative convenience, such as, Chittagong (plain area of Chittagong) and Chittagong Hill Tracts. Chittagong was included in Bengal as regulated District, whereas, Chittagong Hill Tracts was retained as non-regulated District. The Chakma inhabited areas were found in both the administrative units at that time.The official designation of the administrator in CHT was changed from Superintendent to Deputy Commissioner in 1860 and Lt Col. T.H. Lewin was appointed as the first Deputy Commissioner of CHT with headquarters at Rangamati. The area near Demagiri (Tlabung) was inhabited by the Chakmas, and in fact, that area became part of Lushai Hills due to official transfer of land from Chittagong to South Lushai Hills by the British administration. Therefore, under the order passed by Sir Charles Elliot, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal in 1892, Demagiri and the surrounding villages which were inhabited by the Chakmas, were to be included in the Lushai Hills and should be placed under the Chief Commissioner of Assam. After that, the South Lushai Hills and North Lushai Hills were amalgamated in to a single administrative unit, known as Lushai Hills District with effect from 1st April 1898, and was placed under the jurisdiction of the Chief Commissioner of Assam as suggested earlier by Sir Charles Elliot. Even those Chakmas in Demagiri area continued to pay foreigner tax up to 1950-1951 and strong instructions were issued for administrative control of Brus and Chakmas of Lushai Hills by Deputy Commissioner of Lushai Hills in 1954. However, it should be recollected that, other than those labourers who were employed by the chiefs, there were no Chakma population at all in the Uiphumtlang range at that time. In fact, influx of the Chakmas to the Uiphum Tlangdung range began only in 1905.

Prof.Jangkhongam Doungel

To read the further article please get your copy of Eastern Panorama March issue @http://www.magzter.com/IN/Hill-Publications/Eastern-Panorama/News/ or mail to contact @easternpanorama.in