Mangal Kumar Chakma
When the 6-point and 11-point movements towards the end of Pakistan regime were at their height and at the beginning of Bangladesh, the representatives of Jumma people raised the problem of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) to almost all political parties, personalities and leaders of left, middle and rightwing ideology. A very few political leaders considered the importance of the problem properly, and even many were indifferent to listen patiently to the problem. Bangladesh has become independent but there is no exception to the said situation. Manbendra Narayan Larma (M N Larma) raised the issues to various political parties of the country to solve the CHT problem. However, except some verbal sympathy, in reality no political party came forward to solve the problem and has not adopted the issue as its own political program. Rather, they contrarily offered M N Larma to join their political party.
It is noteworthy that the political programs of most of the national political parties of Bangladesh are permeated with ultra-nationalist and ultra-communal ideologies. Usually, these parties bear the views of imperialist, bureaucratic capitalist, feudalist and mercenary ideology. Therefore, the problems of ethnic and linguistic minorities and indigenous ethnic groups like the CHT problem are not given priority in their political program. The progressive political parties of Bangladesh provide support to solve the CHT problem as per CHT Accord of 1997, but they do not adopt the issue in their own political programs. In the harsh reality of the country’s political culture, the great leaders M N Larma and progressive forces of Jumma peoples felt the need for their own political party.
It goes without saying that on 16 December 1971, in exchange of many sacrifices of lives, losing honor of numerous mothers and sisters and the fresh blood of many people, East Pakistan became Bangladesh as an independent sovereign state. As the light of hope rose in the minds of Bengalis all over the country after independence, so also the light of hope was transmitted in the minds of Jumma peoples in CHT. The indigenous Jumma peoples hoped for an end to the ongoing racial exploitation and re-establishment of their rights in the state that had emerged through a bloody armed struggle against ethnic exploitation.
During the Pakistan regime, Jumma peoples were termed as pro-Indian. And as soon as Bangladesh was created, overnight the Jumma peoples started being labeled as pro-Pakistani. But the Jumma people also had a considerable contribution in the liberation struggle of Bangladesh. Despite this, the radical Bengali nationalist reactionary group continued to vilify the Jumma peoples as pro-Pakistani as part of a nefarious conspiracy to uproot them. With the emergence of Bangladesh, while the indescribable inhuman torture and oppression started on the one hand, the conspiracy to ethnic cleansing of Jumma people on the other hand. As soon as the wounds of the tyranny of the Pak army did not dry up, the people of Jumma fell into a state of unrest. Jummas were termed as ‘pro-Pakistani’ and subjected to murder, rape, arson, abduction, looting. In various parts of CHT, outsider Bengalis were invaded and encroached on the lands of the Jumma peoples. What the Pakistan government did not dare to do, the newly emerged independent Bangladesh government did not hesitate to do so.
The Constitution of Bangladesh, adopted in 1972 immediately after independence, completely negates the system of self-governance of the CHT that existed from pre-colonial times. Despite the repeated demands of the Jumma peoples, the Constitution of Bangladesh does not mention a single word about the self-governance system of the CHT and distinct entity of the Jumma peoples. Moreover, in Article 6 of the Constitution, the indigenous peoples living in the country including the Jumma people of the CHT were referred to as Bengalis by stating that ‘the citizens of Bangladesh shall be known as Bengalis’ which was a motto of extreme racism and ultra-communalism of the rulers of a country that had achieved independence by struggling against ethnic oppression. This resulted in extreme anger and discontent among the Jumma peoples. Jumma peoples became more terrified by this.
In one hand, due to the oppression of the Awami League government and its collaborators, and on the other, due to the harassment of the miscreants, the lives of the Jumma peoples became miserable. The people came to the brink of life and death in a state of utter helplessness. A stalemate ensued throughout the region. The Jumma people especially felt the lack of a political party at such a time. These events made it more clear to the Jumma society that these oppressed and deprived peoples have no alternative way to survive except struggle. And a well-organized movement requires a political party of its own. The Parbatya Chattagram Parichalana Committee (CHT Election Running Committee), formed in 1970, stood by the Jumma people during the most disastrous days of national life in the newly independent Bangladesh and continued to deal with the situation with determination. Along with that, the process of forming an own political party also went ahead.
Due to the geographical, socio-economic and political context of CHT, distinct governance system and unique the culture and ethnic identity of the Jumma people, most of the conscious students and intellectuals including M N Larma, Santu Larma, Ananta Bihari Khisa, Amiya Sen Chakma and Kali Madhab Chakma were in favor of forming own political party to protect the legitimate rights of the Jumma peoples of CHT at that time. At this time, instead of forming a new political party, the idea arose to revive the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samiti formed in the British period. As a result, the acceptance of the political party will be achieved, as well as the work of strengthening as a political party will be easier. At that time M N Larma along with some companions discussed with Kamini Mohan Dewan, former president of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samity. He opined that since Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samiti was banned during the Pakistan period, a new party under this name would not be appropriate. Despite this opinion, the first political party of the Jumma people was formed on 15 February 1972 by changing the name of Parbatya Chittagram Jana Samity to ‘Parbatya Chittaggram Jana Samhati Samiti’ (PCJSS).
The convening committee of the PCJSS was formed on that day with M N Larma was as convener. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, Amiya Sen Chakma, Kali Madhab Chakma, Pankaj Dewan among others were the leading persons in establishing PCJSS. On that day they jointly took oath and formed the PCJSS. But later Pankaj Dewan was not active. This day was a historic and unforgettable day of political as well as national awakening of the entire nation of Jumma peoples.
Then on 24 June 1972, a conference of PCJSS was held at Indrapuri Cinema Hall in Rangamati. Eminent social activist Kamini Mohan Dewan was supposed to preside over this conference but he could not attend. However, he sent a written statement. In the conference, a 60-member central committee of the PCJSS was formed with Birendra Kishore Roaza as the president and MN Larma as the general secretary.
Other members of the Central Committee include Hlathowai Prue Karbari, Hira Lal Chakma, Sutakarma Karbari, Birendra Lal Roaza and Monghla Prue Chowdhury as Vice Presidents; Jatindra Lal Tripura and Sonot Kumar Chakma as Joint Secretary; Priti Kumar Chakma as Organizing Secretary; Sukriti Ranjan Chakma as Assistant Organizing Secretary, Ardhendu Bikash Chakma as Publicity Secretary; Kongzai as cultural Secretary; Gyanadatta Khisa as Treasurer; Anadi Kumar Chakma as Office Secretary and Uhla Prue as Social Welfare Secretary.
Birendra Kishore Roaza popularly known as B K Roaza was a veteran politician and social activist who was elected as the founder president of PCJSS. In the first election in the national life of the Jumma people in CHT enjoyed the democratic right to vote, in the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly elections in 1954, B K Roaza was elected as a member of the Provincial Assembly from the Scheduled Community seat. Although the right to vote was not able to bring radical changes in the social life of Jumma peoples, it can be considered as a milestone in gaining democratic rights. B K Roaza was associated with politics since his student life. He was always vocal in the development and establishment of fundamental rights of the neglected and deprived people of CHT.
In 1947, prior to the British leaving India, B K Roaza was arrested for political causes for the first time. Then in 1949, he was imprisoned for the second time by the government of Pakistan for protesting the annexation of the independent state of Tripura to India and forming an organization called Parbatya Jana Seva Sangha. Political visionary B K Roaza was of the opinion that if the Jumma people of CHT are not awakened to the political consciousness, it is not possible to achieve the overall development of the Jumma peoples who speak different languages and live with their own culture and uniqueness. B K Roaza was an educationist. When Khagrachari Government High School was a junior high school, he served three years as unpaid headmaster and another three years as secretary to sustain the school.
Although it is customary for the head teacher to act as secretary in the management of the school, he performed this duty voluntarily at the request of the school management committee and the local administration for the purpose of school development, administrative supervision and proper fund management. As a result, this school became a full-fledged high school and paved the way for the education of people from all walks of life in the area. He also played a leading role in the establishment of a High School at Thakurchara of Khagrachari. He also played a leading role in creating the post of welfare officer in the three subdivisions of the then CHT district during the Pakistan period for fair social and family dispute settlement according to the social, national custom and traditions of the Jumma peoples of CHT. He was appointed as the Honorary Magistrate in Khagrachari sub-division in 1974 and held the post for five years long. During the performance of this duty, the people of Khagrachari were benefited by getting legal benefits according to their respective customs and traditions.
B K Roaza was born in 1913 in Tripura inhabited village Thakurchhara in the present Khagrachari district and died on 2 December 1985. Father Sharat Chandra Roaza was a Mouza headman and poet. Sharat Chandra Roaza’s family was wealthy and influential at that time. B K Roaza was the only child of the parents. Although he born in Khagrachari, his education started in Rangamati. He passed Matriculation from Rangamati Government High School in 1932, Higher Secondary from Chittagong Government College in 1934 and Graduation from Calcutta University in 1936. He started his career as a teacher in Rangamati High School. Along with his teaching, he contributed a vital role as the founding president of the PCJSS, the first political party of the Jumma peoples. Because the teachers’ society played a leading role in starting the movement for self-determination of the Jumma people. As a pioneer soldier of the Jumma people, B K Roaza played a role in many ways in building the organizational base of PCJSS.
The organizational basis of the newly formed PCJSS was the leadership of the then Pahari Chhatra Samiti as well as Jumma student society. Besides the members of the PCJSS, the role of the Jumma student society in expanding the organizational structure of the PCJSS was most noteworthy. In this way, the organizational structure of the PCJSS, a symbol of hopes and aspirations of the Jumma people, was built. PCJSS declared at its inception that the CHT region is the home to eleven indigenous ethnic groups. Main aims and objectives of the formation of PCJSS is-
To stop the discrimination, oppression, deprivation and exploitation of Jumma peoples among them;
To develop their own language and culture of different speaking Jumma peoples and
To establish the right of self-determination to preserve the separate existence of CHT region.
The PCJSS came into existence with the aim of ending ethnic and communal oppression and exploitation and deprivation of people by people and establishing a discrimination and exploitation free society with humanity as the ideology. Nationalism, democracy, secularism, equal rights and social justice – on the basis of these principles, the Jumma peoples of CHT began to unite under the flag of PCJSS. A united movement for the self-determination of Jumma peoples was marched in. The struggle for the realization of the demands of the Jumma peoples started in a systematic way under the leadership of PCJSS.
The preamble to the constitution of the PCJSS states that, “The Jumma people of CHT have been brutally oppressed and exploited for ages. During the era of independent kings, during the reign of British imperialism, during the rule of Pakistan and in present day Bangladesh – at no time did the Jumma peoples escape from the bare hands of oppression, deprivation and exploitation of the ruling classes. The Jumma people are destitute, scarred and on the verge of extinction due to the ruthless suppression and oppression of feudalism during the era of independent kings, the colonial oppression and exploitation during the British imperialism, the exploitation and conspiracy of fundamentalism and expansionism during the rule of Pakistan and the deception, oppression and exploitation of radical nationalism, fundamentalism and expansionism during Bangladesh regime.
On the other hand, since the British rule, the permanent Bengali residents of CHT have become victims of colonial, undemocratic and fundamentalist rule, exploitation and deprivation and are extremely upset and endangered in political, economic, social and cultural aspects. Therefore, with the aim of ending the oppression, deprivation and exploitation of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism and radical nationalism, fundamentalism and expansionism, the democratic, patriotic and progressive forces of the CHT declared unity and embarked on the struggle to establish a society free from discrimination and exploitation.”
In an interview given to journalist Biplab Rahman (on 4 May 1994 in Dhudhukchara), Santu Larma said about the formation of PCJSS that, “The PCJSS is made up of 10 different speaking Jumma people namely Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Mro, Bawm, Khiyang, Pankhua, Lusai Khumi and Chak and it is the only political organization. For national existence and development of the Jumma people, establishment of land rights, establishment of democratic governance and fundamental rights, and with the aim of overcoming all forms of backwardness of the Jumma people and above all because no political party in the country has come forward with any minimum program and in almost all cases due to contempt and extreme negligence the need for an own political party for the Jumma peoples was deeply felt.
In this background PCJSS was formed on 15 February 1972 under the leadership of M N Larma with the massive support of the Jumma peoples. It also continued to wage struggle for the right of self-determination for the Jumma peoples of the CHT in a systematic manner. …when all appeals for the existence and land rights of the Jumma people failed, when all avenues of constitutional struggle are blocked, the rights-seeking Jumma people are forced into armed struggle. …which forced the PCJSS to choose the path of armed struggle. PCJSS does not believe in any separatist movement. It seeks constitutional recognition of the national existence, land ownership, democratic and fundamental rights of the Jumma people under the sovereignty of Bangladesh.”
Soon after the advent of Bangladesh, a delegation of Jumma peoples led by M N Larma requested and negotiated with many leaders at the national level to seek autonomy for CHT with its own Legislative Assembly. They discussed the CHT issue in different times with the leaders of National Awami Party (NAP), Communist Party of Bangladesh, Awami League and other political party. Most of the political leaders offered M N Larma to join their political parties to solve the problem of CHT. Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani of NAP was the only political leader who advised M N Larma to organize a hard-hitting irresistible movement to wrest his rights from the ruling class on his own initiative. He also received assurances of support from some political parties in this regard. But practically it was limited to the words and paper. In reality, no party has come forward with a specific political program. As a result, M N Larma tried to organize CHT-based movement and to form a strong united political party on the basis of Jumma nationalism.
After the founding of PCJSS, the office of the CHT Election Running Committee established at Majherbasti in Rangamati continued to be operated as the office of the PCJSS. At that time, Anadi Ranjan Chakma, one of the central members of the PCJSS was performing the official functions of the party as the office secretary. Almost all policy-making documents of PCJSS were prepared by M N Larma by himself. Due to his right policies and strategies, PCJSS became a strong political party politically and organizationally. His organizational skills were extraordinary. He had perfect analysis in every matter. With his extraordinary skills, PCJSS became well organized in a very short time. According to M N Larma’s well-thought-out revolutionary program, the PCJSS continued to advance.
In fact, it is PCJSS which has united the Jumma peoples. It has developed the national spirit of the people. So, PCJSS continues to play its historical responsibility and role in the struggle to preserve and develop the national existence and the existence of the homeland. The patriotic section of the Jumma peoples continue to lead in this struggle. Even during the most difficult days in the struggle for self-determination, the leadership of the PCJSS was able to take the right steps without being confused and disturbed. PCJSS is always ready to foil any conspiracy of the ruling class. It is the symbol of the aspirations of the Jumma peoples. This orgnization is at the forefront of the struggle for self-determination of the Jumma peoples to carry out its historical responsibility. PCJSS will continue to move forward through the implementation of its well-defined program until the national existence and homeland of the oppressed and exploited Jumma people of CHT is preserved.