Agartala, August 17: Chakma National Council of India, an organisation of indigenous Chakma community, on Friday announced that it would observe August 17 as ‘Black Day’ every year from now on as protest against inclusion of Chittagong Hill Tracts into East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh in 1971. Speaking to reporters after a ‘Black Day’ rally in Agartala, CNCI vice-president Aniruddha Chakma said people of his community faced years of crisis, homelessness and persecution in the hands of Pakistan forces due to “illogical and forceful” inclusion of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) into East Pakistan.
Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) is traditionally inhabited by at least 10 ethnic minorities including Chakma, Marma, Tipperas, Chak, Murung, Khumi, Lushai, Bowm, Pankho and Mog. It covers approximately 5,138 sq miles and is bound on the north by Tripura, Arakan Hills of Myanmar on the south, Lushai Hills of Mizoram and Arakan Hills of Myanmar on the east and by Chittagong District on the west. It was mostly inhabited by Buddhist and Hindu communities at the time of Independence but was declared Pakistan territory by the Boundary Commission led by Sir Cyril Radcliffe.
Chakma leader Sreya Kumar Chakma hoisted the Indian Tricolor at Rangamati, district headquarters of Chittagong Hill Tracts, on August 15, 1947. The flag was later lowered by Pakistan forces on August 21 and Chakma leaders were identified as Indian sympathisers.
Chakma National Council leader Aniruddha said, “People of CHT have allegiance with people of India. The Radcliffe Commission included CHT with East Pakistan against our wishes. That was the beginning of an age of persecution, ethnic cleansing on Chakma community. We are observing August 17 as Black Day against the decision and will continue to observe it in the coming years,” he said.
The day would be observed with similar protests in Assam, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and parts of the country where students and other people of the community live, the Chakma leader added.
Raising allegations of ethnic persecution, Chakmas from CHT sought refuge in Indian territory in several phases since their inclusion in East Pakistan. Over 50,000 of them were sheltered in different relief camps in Tripura and Mizoram in 1986. Many were later relocated to Arunachal Pradesh. The last group of Chakma refugees sought asylum in Tripura in 2013. They were later sent back.
A protest rally was also held on the issue by Tripura Chakma Students Association in Agartala city on Friday afternoon. (Courtesy: IE)