Friday, December 08, 2006

Distorting the History of Chittagong Hill Tracts

PRAJNALANKAR BHIKKHU

Lawyers and journalists uphold justice and truth in the society by their profession. But it is an irony in Bangladesh that Bengali Muslim lawyers like M.B.I. Munshi, Bar-at-Law & Advocate (Supreme Court), Dhaka, and journalists like Mohammad Zainul Abedin have started raping the history of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) – let alone its non-Muslim minority communities (Jumma indigenous people) – as part of their support to the Bangladeshi government's "policy of Islamisation" in the region. If lawyers and journalists of Bangladesh can involve in such a crime, a sensible person can easily imagine the magnitude and graveness of atrocities being committed on the minority non-Muslim communities by a majority and powerful Islamic fundamentalist regime – Bangladesh.

The Jummas are the first people or sons of soil in the CHT. It is the Jummas who first fought with wild animals and dense forest and made the CHT habitable. Before them the region was a no-man's land. No historical records are available on the existence of Bengali Muslim settlement in the CHT before 1860. Of course, Bengali Muslims of Bengal had established trade relations with the Jummas in the early 16th century.

Bengali Muslims started migrating from parts of Bengal into the CHT as labourers hired by individual Jummas for agriculture since the colonization of the region by the British in 1860. Increasing population of Bengali Muslims in the CHT necessitated the British to enact the 1900 CHT Regulation in 1900. The Regulation restricts "outsiders" (here Bengali Muslims) from "purchasing land" and "settling permanently" in the region without prior permission from the Deputy Commissioner. According to the census reports, Bengalis – both Muslims and Hindus -- constituted only 1.5% in 1941, 6.29% in 1951 and 11.77% in 1961 of the total CHT population. It means in 1941, the Jummas constituted 98.5% of the total CHT population. It is clear who the sons or indigenous or first people of the CHT are. According to the census report of 2001, Bengali Muslims have increased to 49% (in fact, the figure is higher than 60%) of the total CHT population in 2001.

The Jummas migrated originally from India via Burma due to bloody feuds between the "tribal republics" and rising urban-based monarchical kingdoms after the demise of the Buddha. They established kingdom in the CHT under their Chiefs. The CHT had been an independent Buddhist kingdom until it was brought under British India in 1860. Even the long rule of the Mughals (1326-1757) failed to invade it for geo-political reasons. The CHT was one of the regions where the sword (terrorism in modern language) of Muslim invaders (terrorists in modern language) failed to reach out. This is one of the reasons why Buddhism is still surviving there despite its total destruction in India during the Muslim rule. From 1900 to 1947 the CHT was specially administered by the Chakma, Bomang and Mong Chiefs under the CHT Regulation of 1900. It was integrated with East Pakistan during the partition of the Indian Sub-continent in 1947 against the will of the people thereof. This integration is illegal, undemocratic and incomplete.

Bangladesh was born as an independent and sovereign nation-state out of the womb of Pakistan very recently in 1971. The history of Bangladesh begins from 1971 onwards, while the history of the CHT began centuries ago. Bangladesh is a baby-state. And the CHT had never been part of this baby-state before 1971.

The Jumma indigenous people had lost their homeland and sovereignty to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, with the de-colonization of the Indian Sub-continent in 1947 due to the whimsical and arbitrary decision of the British. They are now on the threshold of losing their very identity and culture due to the Bangladeshi policy of Bengali Muslim population explosion in their territory. The CHT is one of the surviving colonies in the post-colonial era.

The Jummas identify themselves as indigenous people, as they truly are, in the context of the current Bangladeshi colonial rule in their traditional homeland. Bangladesh denies their identity as indigenous people and wrongly imposes "tribal identity" on them as part of its policy to deny their right to self-determination and to justify its colonial regime in the CHT.

Islam was born in the late 6th century i.e. 1400 years ago from today. It spread over South Asia in the 12th century. While the Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist periods in South Asia date back respectively to 3000 and 2500 years ago from today. Java, Borneo, Sumatra, Bali etc. islands of present Indonesia were Buddhist countries. Many century-old Buddhist monasteries like the Barabadur (a name deriving from an expression meaning "Mountain of accumulation of merits of the ten states of Bodhisattva" ) Stupa in Java built in the 6th century are still living witnesses of this historical fact. However, Muslim invaders destroyed these Buddhist islands in the 15th century while spreading Islam with the sword.

According to Wikipedia, the web-based free encyclopaedia, Buddhism entered Bengal before Asoka's time (3rd century BC.). Bangladesh (historical Bengal) has a unique place in the history of Buddhism, mainly for two reasons. Firstly, Bengal was the last stronghold of Indian Buddhism where it could survive as a socio-cultural force until the 12th century, despite its disappearance from other parts of the Indian subcontinent. Secondly, it is generally claimed that Bengal was the home of a form of Buddhism, namely, the Tantric Buddhism. Tantric Buddhism is a later development in Bengal and therefore it remains to be seen what specific factors are responsible for turning the pure form of Buddhism into tantricism and whether the mystic and esoteric practices in the Buddhism of Bangladesh are of distinctively Bengali origin.

The Mughals of India and the Bengali Muslims of present Bangladesh were, in fact, Hindus in the Vedic/Hindu period and peace-loving Buddhists in the Buddhist period. This historical fact is still alive in the ruins of Mahastangarh Buddhist monasteries (3rd century BC) in Bogra, Paharpur Buddhist monasteries (7th century) in Rajshahi, now a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO, Mainamati Salban Viharas (8th century) in Comilla, Pandit Vihara (10th century) in Chittagong and Dhakeshwari Temple (12th century) in Dhaka.

The Arab Muslim invaders forcibly converted them into Islam while they marched across South and South-east Asia to spread Islam with the sword in the 12th century. They destroyed the history, identity and culture of these Hindus and peace-loving Buddhists. The Bengali Muslims of Bangladesh are doing exactly the same in the CHT. Today these poor Hindus and peace-loving Buddhists forgot their past history and wrongly think themselves as Muslims under the evil influence of Islam.

Mohammad Zainal claims himself to be a "researcher", "historian" and "journalist". He should study and research the CHT history more with an objective mind. He should not apply his subjectivism and religious fanaticism in research. His "research" on the Jumma indigenous people is like raping the history of the CHT. #