Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Partition of India, Incorporation of Chittagong Hill Tracts into Pakistan and the Politics of Chakmas: A Review

Academic journal article Pakistan Historical Society. Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society

Partition of India, Incorporation of Chittagong Hill Tracts into Pakistan and the Politics of Chakmas: A Review

Article excerpt

In 1860 the British formed a new non-Regulation District named 'Chittagong Hill Tracts' separating it from the Regulation District of Chittagong under the Bengal province with about 7000 square miles hilly areas to the east of Chittagong. They made a list of some backward districts of British India by enacting the Scheduled Districts Act 1874. Such 250 districts administration comprising regulation and scheduled districts were the key units of the British administration.1 Some Scheduled Districts were entitled to send representatives, either elected by provincial legislative council or nominated by the Central government, to the provincial assembly. But some Scheduled Districts were not entitled to that privilege. It were the British who determined their administrative setup applying different techniques in different regions where they considered it expedient in order to make their empire safe and secured. In doing this, they, more or less got the help of native collaborators loyal to the British Raj in every aspect. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) was one such Scheduled District. In order to bring the administration of this frontier district of Bengal under their total control, the British divided the entire district into three revenue circles viz., Chakma Circle 2499 sq. miles, Bomang Circle 1935 sq. miles and the Mong Circle 704 sq. miles and at the same time, among the eleven tribes of the CHT, they gave official recognition to only three tribal chiefs as the 'Circle Chief or Raja'. They chose those chiefs who were in control of the main entry points into the hills; other local power holders had to remain in a subordinate position in the new administrative structure. These three Chiefs enjoyed many privileges and exercised power in revenue matters and in internal affairs. But in 1946, when they got the news of the imminent departure of the British from India they became worried about the future administrative status of Chittagong Hill Tracts. Apart from these dominant Chiefs, there were some leaders of a petty political organization who were also worried about the future political entity of the region. Two alternatives - India under the Indian National Congress (hence the Congress) or Pakistan under the Muslim League - were before them. The CHT leaders preferred the former. This paper focuses on the rationality of their political approach of trying to remain with India and or staying with the then East Bengal of Pakistan.

A brief background of the partition of India

The British rule came to an end from the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The people of the sub-continent achieved independence after a long glorious struggle. They had to pass a bloody-path for independence. But independence appeared to them in a divided form, due to the Muslims' uncompromising demand for a separate homeland - Pakistan. It seemed to the Muslims that their religious entity would be threatened in a United India. The same thing also happened in the case of the bhadralok (educated elite of caste Hindu) of Bengal. The major community (the Hindu) and their political leaders could not gain the trust of the minorities particularly the Muslims. This failure became clearer when the Muslim League fought the elections of 1945-1946 on the sole issue of Pakistan and won 423 out of 482 seats reserved for the Muslim community in the provincial assemblies.2The bloody communal riot at Calcutta, Noakhali and Bihar in 1946 added fuel to the fire. In these circumstances, there was no alternative for the Indians but to take the mixed taste of independence. A tripartite dissension among the British, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League* on the issue of the form of government after the termination of British Empire failed to solve the problem. The Congress formally gave its consent to the partition of India on 8 March 1947. At that time the Congress Working Committee, by approving a proposal, declared that if the country had to be divided then the provinces of the Punjab and Bengal had also to be divided. …

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