The Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bengali: পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম, romanized: Parbotto Chottogram), often shortened to simply the Hill Tracts and abbreviated to CHT, are a group of districts within the Chittagong Division in southeastern Bangladesh, bordering India and Myanmar (Burma). Covering 13,295 square kilometres (5,133 sq mi), they formed a single district until 1984, when they were divided into three districts: Khagrachari District, Rangamati Hill District, and Bandarban District.

Topographically, the Hill Tracts are the only extensively hilly area in Bangladesh. It was historically settled by many tribal refugees from Burma Arakan in the 16th century and now it is settled by the Jumma people. Today, it remains one of the least developed parts of Bangladesh.

The Chattogram Hill Tracts along with Sikkim, Tawang,...Read more

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bengali: পার্বত্য চট্টগ্রাম, romanized: Parbotto Chottogram), often shortened to simply the Hill Tracts and abbreviated to CHT, are a group of districts within the Chittagong Division in southeastern Bangladesh, bordering India and Myanmar (Burma). Covering 13,295 square kilometres (5,133 sq mi), they formed a single district until 1984, when they were divided into three districts: Khagrachari District, Rangamati Hill District, and Bandarban District.

Topographically, the Hill Tracts are the only extensively hilly area in Bangladesh. It was historically settled by many tribal refugees from Burma Arakan in the 16th century and now it is settled by the Jumma people. Today, it remains one of the least developed parts of Bangladesh.

The Chattogram Hill Tracts along with Sikkim, Tawang, Darjeeling, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka, constitute some of the remaining abodes of Buddhism in South Asia.

During the 15th century, it was controlled by the Twipra Kingdom. It was the warzone between the Arakan Kingdom and the Twipra Kingdom. Under British control, the British East India Company appointed chiefs to collect taxes from people. This was done in regional areas known as Chakma Circle, Mong Circle, and Bohmong Circle.

The early history of the Chittagong Hill Tracts is a record of constantly recurring raids by the eastern hill tribes (Mizo or Lushai) and of the operations undertaken to repress them. In the early 16th century the Chakma people came from Arakan (Burma) due to repression and hostility by Rakhaine people. The Chakma are the single largest tribe, comprising half of the tribal population. The Marma people are the second largest tribe. They came from Burma when Arakan was conquered by Burmese king Bodawpaya. The tribal peoples that emigrated from Burma due to repression by the Burmese king settled in the Hill Tracts with the consent of the Subedar of Bengal, who was the representative of the Mughal emperor.

Mughal and early British records name the region Jum Bungoo, Jum mahal or Kapas mahal.[1][2] In 1787, the East India Company made the region its tributary after battling tribal leaders.

British rule

The use of the name Chittagong for this area dates to the 1860 British annexation of the region, bringing it under the direct control of British India. Situated beyond the inland hills, Chittagong proper is a coastal area in the plains where the British were based. As colonial influence grew, "Chittagong" enlarged as well, expanding eastwards[3] to subsume the Hill Tracts under its revenue-collection territory.[2]

The recorded population increased from 69,607 in 1872 to 101,597 in 1881, to 107,286 in 1891, and to 124,762 in 1901. The census of 1872 was, however, very imperfect, and the actual population growth probably did not exceed what might be expected in a sparsely inhabited but fairly healthy tract.[4]

When the 1901 census was taken there were no towns, and 211 of the villages had populations of less than 500 apiece; only one exceeded 2,000. The population density, excluding the area of uninhabited forest (1,385 square miles), was 33 persons per square mile. There was a little immigration from Chittagong, and a few persons had emigrated to Tripura. The proportion of females to every 100 males was only 90 in the district-born and 83 in the total population. Buddhists numbered 83,000, Hindus 36,000, and Muslims 5,000.[5]

The Chittagong Hill Tracts, combining three hilly districts of Bangladesh, were once known as Korpos Mohol, the name used until 1860. In 1860 it was annexed by the British and was made an administrative district of Bengal. Administratively, the Chittagong Hill Tracts were divided into three circles, namely the Chakma Circle, the Bohmong Circle, and the Mong Circle, each presided over by a hereditary chief from the Chakma and Marma peoples.[6] As of today, it is a semi-autonomous region within Bangladesh comprising the districts of Chengmi (Khagrachari District), Gongkabor (Rangamati Hill District), and Arvumi (Bandarban District).

End of British rule

The last viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who considered the grant of independence to India as his act of crowning glory, was ambitious to achieve this "superhuman" task in record time. He said that before accepting the post of viceroy, he had told George VI, who was his cousin: "I am prepared to accept the job only on one condition. India must be granted independence by July, 1948 and I will not stay there a day longer". Mountbatten came to India in March 1947 and this left him just about sixteen months to complete such a gigantic task. In reality, he achieved it in five months, on 15 August 1947, for which he was given much credit, despite intense violence.

The Boundary Commission's award was originally to be made public on 13 August. But Mountbatten was reluctant to make this public. According to Philip Ziegler, the author of Mountbatten's official biography, the case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts was uppermost in Mountbatten's mind. Mountbatten "foresaw an Independence Day marred by rancor, Nehru boycotting the ceremonies, India born in an atmosphere not of euphoria but of angry resentment." So Mountbatten announced the award only on 16 August when the celebrations were over. As Zeigler writes, "India's indignation at the award of the Chittagong Hill Tracts to Pakistan may have been a factor in making up Mountbatten's mind to keep the reports to himself till after independence".

Mountbatten was himself surprised by the ferocity of Vallabhbhai Patel's reaction to the issue. In his memoirs, he wrote, "The one man I had regarded as a real statesman with both his feet firmly on the ground, and a man of honor whose word was his bond, had turned out to be as hysterical as the rest. Candidly I was amazed that such a terrific crisis should have blown up over so small a matter. However, I have been long enough in India to realise that major crises are by no means confined to big matters." Leonard Mosley in his book The Last Days of the British Raj puts it as "a matter for Mountbatten's conscience".

Conflict

The conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts dates back to when Bangladesh was the eastern wing of Pakistan. Widespread resentment occurred over the displacement of as many as 100,000 native people due to the construction of the Kaptai Dam in 1962. The displaced did not receive compensation from the government and many thousands fled to India.

After The Liberation War, a convoy of the Bangladesh army was ambushed by Shanti Bahini militants from the Hill Tracts. More than 90+ soldiers were killed and several of them were heavily injured. This was the first bloodshed in the Hill Tracts. After this massacre, Bangladesh deployed an army there. After some days, the Shanti Bahini started killing civilians in the Tracts. Many soldiers of the Bangladesh army were killed or injured by them.

Following years of unrest, an agreement was formed between the government of Bangladesh and the tribal leaders which granted a limited level of autonomy to the elected council of the three hill districts.[7]

 The Hanging Bridge, Rangamati Hill District

The 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord signed between the then-government of Sheikh Hasina and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti was opposed by opposition parties as well as a fraction of the tribal rebels.[8] Opposition parties argued that the autonomy granted in the treaty ignored the Bengali community. The succeeding Khaleda Zia government promised to implement the peace treaty, despite their opposition to it during the previous government's term. According to the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, a peace treaty between the Government of Bangladesh and Parbattya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti was signed on 2 December 1997.

^ Geiger, Danilo (2008). Frontier Encounters: Indigenous Communities and Settlers in Asia and Latin America. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. p. 487. ISBN 978-87-91563-15-7. ^ a b Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila; Xanthaki, Alexandra; Thornberry, Patrick (2005). Minorities, Peoples And Self-determination. Martinus Nijhoff. p. 115. ISBN 90-04-14301-7. ^ International Labour Office (2000). Traditional occupations of indigenous and tribal peoples. International Labour Organization. p. 73. ISBN 978-92-2-112258-6. The Chittagong Hill Tracts is a misnomer. This was the name given to this region after its annexation [...] ^ "Imperial Gazetteer2 of India, Volume 10, page 319 – Imperial Gazetteer of India – Digital South Asia Library". dsal.uchicago.edu. ^ "Imperial Gazetteer2 of India, Volume 10, page 320 – Imperial Gazetteer of India – Digital South Asia Library". dsal.uchicago.edu. ^ Hutchinson, Robert Henry Sneyd (1906). An Account of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Bengal Secretariat Book Depot. bohmong circle. ^ "Chittagong hill tracts : Commission rejects Bangladesh criticism". UNPO – Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation. CHT – Chittagong Hill tracts Commission. Retrieved 11 December 2013. ^ Bangladesh: Militarization in the Chittagong Hill Tracts – The slow demise of the region's tribal peoples. Sheikh Hasina's government started food for education programs in 1998 for the first time in the hill tract area. IWGIA Report 14. Copenhagen: IWGIA. 2012. ISBN 9788792786203.
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